Saturday, October 23, 2021

Rejection of request to protest by Castro regime is yet another example of intolerance of freedom of expression. Protest leader say N15 civic march continues.

"Using violence is a stupid decision." - Dr. Gene Sharp, January 30, 2012

Source: CubaBrief

104 days ago today on July 11, 2021 tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets across Cuba declaring that they were no longer afraid, and calling for an end to the dictatorship. The dictatorship's response was public, swift, brutal, and sustained. The regime's repression has not ended, but nor has the civic defiance and courage of Cubans.

Reuters reported on October 21st that Cuban prosecutors had summoned protest leaders (organized in a Facebook group called Archipelago, from across Cuba who are calling for protests on November 15th over curbs to civil rights in Cuba, and demanding an amnesty for jailed regime opponents) warning them against convening civic marches "under penalty of the law."

Lexi Lonas reported in The Hill, on the same day that "a Cuban protest leader said Thursday his group will gather for a demonstration in November despite warnings from a prosecutor that doing so could have legal ramifications." Lonas cited a quote by Yunior Garcia, leader of the Archipelago group, taken from Reuters stating, "we are not mercenaries, nor are we receiving orders from anyone." ... "We are openly demonstrating a difference of opinion.”

Expressing a difference of opinion with the Castro regime is a dangerous proposition in Cuba. 

Expressing a difference of opinion in Cuba is a criminal offense under the dictatorship's legal code, and in practice. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, with regards to the upcoming November 15th Civic March said:

“Groups of people from various provinces around the country have been submitting requests in recent weeks to different local governments asking for authorization to carry out peaceful marches, organized in a clearly defined way in a legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Instead of guaranteeing these rights, President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government has declared these civil society marches ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, once again violating the right to peaceful protest in Cuba.”

The spontaneous nonviolent protests that took place in Cuba in mid-July were met with deadly force and hundreds, if not thousands of Cubans jailed. Cuban human rights defenders addressed this matter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) audience titled "Human rights situation in the context of protest in Cuba". However Black human rights defender Manuel Cuesta Morua was blocked by Havana from speaking.

President Miguel Diaz Canel, handpicked by Raul Castro, told Cubans in a televised national public address on July 11th: "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.” Diaz-Canel made explicit his demand for violent confrontation stating: "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." He concluded his address to the country declaring: "The order of combat is given, revolutionaries take to the streets."

Regime agents dressed in black, and police officers fired their weapons on unarmed protesters, and some of the Cubans, who survived these encounters, showed where some of the rounds had passed through them. Not all survived these encounters with the dictatorship's security forces. On July 12th, the second day of the uprising, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) was shot in the back by police. NGOs initially placed the number of extrajudicial killings at five during the protests, but the total number remains unknown. Video emerged on July 15th of the aftermath of Diubis being shot in the back and posted over Twitter.

Human Rights Watch in their October 19, 2021 report "Cuba: Peaceful Protesters Systematically Detained, Abused" describes in detail how the regime is still using arbitrary detention, ill-treatment (including gender-based violence), and summary trials that fall far short of international standards to directly impact hundreds of Cubans. According to Human Rights Watch there are 1,000 Cubans detained and 500 current political prisoners, but these are partial numbers painstakingly gathered by human rights observers such as CubaLex that have also been threatened for their work documenting human rights violations.

Cuban dissidents responding to this violent and ongoing crackdown have asked for help and solidarity.

Eileen Kinsella reported in ArtNet News, on October 19, 2021 in her article "Havana Biennial Boycott Gathers Support, With Hundreds Signing Open Letter Against Government Crackdown" that a long "list of Cuban and international artists and experts have signed an open letter that was posted on e-flux" that include artists Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco, as well as Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, a British/Venezuelan art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art, calling for a boycott of the 14th Havana Biennial to protest "injustices committed by the Cuban government against its citizens, including harassment and wrongful imprisonment." High profile names have already withdrawn from the event, including Swiss artist Ursula Biemann, French critic Nicolas Bourriaud, artists Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Aimee Joaristi Argüelles, and curator Maria Belén Saez de Ibarra, according to Hyperallergic.

 Thus far, this example of solidarity has not been replicated in the Paris Club. Marc Frank reported for Reuters on October 20th that the Castro regime "reached a deal with the Paris Club of creditor nations to postpone an annual debt payment due in November until next year, according to diplomats from five of the governments involved, the latest sign the Communist-run country is suffering a grave foreign exchange crisis. The historic 2015 Paris Club agreement with Havana forgave $8.5 billion of $11.1 billion in sovereign debt Cuba defaulted on in 1986, plus charges. Cuba agreed to repay the remainder in annual installments through 2033, but only partially met its obligations in 2019 and defaulted last year." The Economic Eye on Cuba, the blog of the New York based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc. reported on this deal with an important note reproduced below.

NOTE: Individuals participating in the negotiations shared on background that the group of creditor countries have no expectation that the Republic of Cuba will maintain the terms of a newly-termed debt repayment agreement. The altering of debt repayment terms was pro forma as the Republic of Cuba continues to be in arrears for hundreds of millions of dollars of private sector commercial debt including to joint venture partners, and continues to seek debt forgiveness and debt restructuring of private sector commercial debt. There is an expectation that long-term government-to-government financing programs for infrastructure and durable products will become donations.

These "donations" to the dictatorship in Cuba are assisting in the repression of the Cubans. The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a coalition of pro-democracy and human rights groups inside and outside Cuba, issued a press release condemning the deal reached by the Paris Club and the Castro regime and explained how "this concession to the Cuban regime will serve to subsidize repression in Cuba, as the regime continues to buy military equipment to crack down on civil society and peaceful demonstrations. On June 10, 2021, 240 Cuban leaders and activists signed a letter, asking the Paris Club to not collaborate with repression in Cuba. Their fears were confirmed on July 11, 2021, and unfortunately Cubans expect to see the same levels of violence and military and police deployment on November 15, 2021, as the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office has threatened the organizers of the upcoming peaceful demonstration."

The Christian Liberation Movement, based in Cuba that led the Varela Project which over 35,000 Cubans in the island signed, called for the isolation of the Castro dictatorship with the following proposal that contains eleven measures that includes the ongoing and successful boycott of the 14th Havana Biennial, but also not granting the Cuban regime lines of credit, and placing an arms embargo on the dictatorship.

We propose that until the dictatorship unconditionally releases all those arrested for the peaceful demonstrations and all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and holds free and plural elections:

– The Cuban regime should be excluded from participating in any international forum, Summit and event.

– Cuba should be investigated and condemned for its human rights violations by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

– All economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship, like the EU-Cuba cooperation agreement, should be suspended.

– Lines of credit should not be granted to the Cuban regime.

– Foreign investments and tourism to Cuba should be discouraged.

– All products exported from Cuba, either directly by the regime or through foreign companies associated with Cuban tyranny, should be boycotted.

– An international arms and repression equipment embargo on Cuba should be imposed

– Cuba should be banned from all international sporting, cultural and academic events.

– Visas to military junta officials and relatives, and to members of Cuba's Communist Party and all organizations and institutions who take part in repressive actions or support the repression, should not be granted or should be revoked.

– Channels to send humanitarian aid should be facilitated as part of this campaign to isolate the regime and in solidarity with the Cuban people.

– An international commission to support democracy in Cuba should be created. It should promote that these and other measures are executed, and should watch over its implementation.

Dictatorship's like the one in Havana understand only one thing, force, but it can impact them in many ways and the list above demonstrates the power of nonviolent, civic action.



Sunday, October 17, 2021

Placing the July 11th protests into context for a non-Cuban audience


Family Ties: Cuban Americans and Their Emigration Story | NBCLX

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Remembering Laura Pollán, Cuba's Lady in White ten years after her killing

They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." - Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2010

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, February 13, 1948 – October 14, 2011
Ten years ago today, Cuban opposition leader and human rights defender Laura Pollán died under circumstances that Cuban dissident and medical doctor Oscar Elias Biscet described as "death by purposeful medical neglect."
Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, a courageous woman spoke truth to power and protested in the streets of Cuba demanding an amnesty for Cuban political prisoners. She had been a school teacher, before her husband was jailed for his independent journalism in 2003 along with more than 75 other civil society members. Laura was greatly admired both inside and outside of the island.
But when one opposes the regime in Cuba not only is their physical life in danger, but their reputation is systematically slandered. The dictatorship claimed that she was a stateless "traitor." She became ill and died within the space of a week under circumstances that raise the question of foul play by Castro's secret police. Following her death the official media of the dictatorship began a slander campaign asserting that she was a common criminal.
  Following brutal repression, in an effort to prevent them from marching through the streets of Havana, Laura Pollan directly and nonviolently challenged the regime declaring, "we will never give up our protest. The authorities have three options — free our husbands, imprison us or kill us." 

Unfortunately beginning in 2010 a new and deadlier pattern of oppression presented itself with the extrajudicial death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Laura Pollán's "criminal" behavior was to start the Ladies in White movement after the Black Cuban Spring of 2003 and nonviolently challenged the Castro regime in the streets of Havana at the beginning, and eventually across the island. Laura reached out to the wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters of the 75 prisoners of conscience jailed in March of 2003 along with her husband and they carried out a sustained nonviolent campaign that after nine years obtained the freedom of their loved ones.
Since she did not dissolve the Ladies in White when her husband returned home because she recognized that the laws had not changed, and that political prisoners remained behind bars and that she would continue her human rights activism, the Castro regime did away with her on October 14, 2011.
Today, the current leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, paid homage to her predecessor over FaceBook while calling out and holding responsible the Castro regime for Laura's death.
Tenth anniversary of the physical loss of Laura Pollan Toledo. The Fidel Castro regime murdered Laura Pollan, they thought to silence her, but they did not succeed, she remains high in our esteem and is among us present at every step of the Ladies in White, following her legacy. 
Example of a woman, loving, brave, intelligent, audacious, teacher, warrior, for that and much more we say: LAURA POLLAN LIVES Laura is in our hearts Ladies in White we pay tribute and homage to: Laura Pollan Toledo.
Let us remember that Laura put into action over eight years in Cuba nonviolent resistance to tyranny.
"They tried to silence 75 voices, but now there are more than 75 voices shouting to the world the injustices the government has committed." (2004) "We fight for the freedom of our husbands, the union of our families. We love our men." (2005)
"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." (2010) "We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.” (September 24, 2011)
"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story." (2011)
“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba that it be what God wants.” (September 24, 2011)
"We are not going to stop. If you have imprisoned our sisters thinking that we would give up, they are mistaken. We are very united (...) all the women's movements are very close." (October 2, 2011)
"My life has changed a lot, now I have learned to love the country much more, the prisoners, the humanity. That's how I have so much work, that I don't have much time to think about myself, what really satisfies me, in short, I owe myself to other more important tasks. Now I understand much more, before I could not understand these things, you have to live and feel them to be able to dedicate soul heart and life to this beautiful cause." (2011)
The regime in Cuba is the most misogynist government in all of Latin America. Women who speak out and exercise their fundamental rights are regularly slandered, physically assaulted and sometimes die under suspicious circumstances as Laura did ten years ago today.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

October 10, 1868 Grito de Yara's Double Significance for Freedom in Cuba: How Castroism betrayed both of them

 Independence and Emancipation


The Grito de Yara on October 10, 1868 has a double significance for Cubans, and Black Cubans specifically. It was the initial cry for independence that marked the start of the "Ten Years War" that seriously challenged Spanish colonial rule, and the institution of slavery.

 This day marked an immediate and concrete start of liberation.


Plantation and slave owner Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo, sounded a bell that gathered enslaved black Cubans together to begin the work day, but on October 10, 1868 he freed them instead.


Carlos Manuel de Céspedes del Castillo

This slave owner then invited them, if they chose, to take up arms and join him in a new struggle for independence. The nearest town to his plantation was called Yara and this cry for freedom became known as the "Grito de Yara." 


Carlos Manuel not only promised independence from Spain, but the abolition of slavery in Cuba. 


This was a day of choosing for black Cuban slaves and over the next decade they fought for freedom, together with free blacks, and white Cubans. 


On October 10, 1878 in the Pact of Zanjón slaves that had taken part on either side of the fight were freed, but those who remained on the sidelines would not be freed until October 7, 1886. 


General Martínez Campos and General Antonio Maceo meet

Not everyone agreed with the pact. General Antonio Maceo was summoned by Martínez Campos to Los Mangos de Baraguá on March 15, 1879. General Maceo refused to accept the conditions established in the agreement. He demanded full independence and the complete abolition of slavery. This became known as "La Protesta de Baraguá" where  General Antonio Maceo told his Spanish counterpart: "We do not understand each other". 


Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer, a free Cuban black, and leader of the independence struggle defended the rights of Black Cubans for his entire career. In 1892 he founded the “Directory of Colored Societies” - the same year that slavery ended in Cuba. 

 The Central Directory of Societies of Color would spend the next seventy six years pushing for Black advancement in Cuba.   


It would be a fair assessment to define October 10, 1868 as not only the beginning of Cuban independence, but a day to celebrate black liberation from 373 years of bondage beginning with the arrival of the first African slaves to Cuba in 1513. Over 900,000 Africans would be taken from West Africa and brought to Cuba over 350 years.

Juan Gualberto transmitted the order that began the 2nd war of independence on February 24, 1895. Gómez Ferrer was captured on February 28, 1895 and imprisoned by the Spanish for three years. Upon his release he went to New York and continued the struggle for Cuban independence from exile.


"In December 1898, he accompanied Major General Calixto García to Washington, D.C. as a member of the commission sent to negotiate for funds necessary for the Cuban Liberation Army and recognition of the rebels" by the United States.


 In 1900 Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer was elected to represent Oriente in the Constituent Assembly.  


Following independence he was deeply critical of the Platt Amendment. The United States military had occupied Cuba from 1898 to 1902, and the bitter price of independence was accepting the Platt Amendment in the 1901 Cuban Constitution, 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. 


Gómez Ferrer held seats in the Cuban House of Representatives (1914–1917) and Senate (1917–1925), representing Havana. 


Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer

Between 1886 and 1962 in Cuba, free black people were able to organize in a network of societies founded by Juan Gualberto Gómez Ferrer to press for black social, economic and political advancement in Cuba.

Cuba during the later colonial period, and during the Republic wrestled with the legacy of slavery, and racism, but it was part of the public discussion – with its high and low points.   

Ugly periods, such as the 1912 race war, and private discrimination persisted, but so did black agency to advocate for each other.

General Pedro Ivonnet Dufort was a Mambi officer killed in 1912

Political leaders had to answer to these black societies, and provide patronage to them, and in a vibrant free press, and in publishing houses debates on race, and racism, and the need for redress took place.

The Central Directory of Societies of Color, founded by Gómez Ferrer in 1892 succeeded in lobbying for the 1940 Constitution to address racism in Articles 10,  20,  74, and 102.

And although incomplete and too slow, progress had been made in the 1940 Constitution, and in labor legislation to provide greater inclusion for black Cubans over the next 20 years.

All of this came crashing down with Castro’s communist revolution.  

“Of the 256 Negro societies in Cuba, many  have had to close their doors and others are in death agony. One can truthfully say, and this is without the slightest exaggeration, that the Negro movement in Cuba died at the hands of Sr. Fidel Castro.” … “Yet this is the man who had the cynical impudence to visit the United States in 1960 for the purpose of censuring American racial discrimination. Although this evil obviously exists in the United States, Castro is not precisely the man to offer America solutions, nor even to pass judgement,” reported Cuban nationalist Juan René Betancourt in his essay in the NAACP's publication The Crisis in 1961. 

Juan René Betancourt

Some of the more prominent clubs that are still remembered are the Sociedad Buena Vista ( Buena Vista Social Club), Amantes del Progreso, Unión Fraternal, Progreso, Nueva Era, and El Club Atenas.

Between 1898 and 1959 the relationship between Black-Americans and Black-Cubans was based on their race and being black minorities.  The relationship between the two diasporas ended when the Castro regime ended autonomous black civil society in 1962. 

It was replaced by Castro and his white revolutionary elite allying with Black elites in the United States, and Africa.  The Castro regime would selectively target black elites in the NAACP, the Nation of Islam, and representatives of newly liberated nations in Africa. This was exemplified by Fidel Castro meeting with Malcolm X on September 19, 1960.

The elimination of Afro-Cubans from this dynamic demonstrated how the new communist revolutionary elite transformed what race meant within the island while at the same time turning it into a political tool outside of Cuba to advance the Castro regime's communist agenda.

This ended black agency in Cuba for decades, and replaced it with a policy based in obedience, submission, and gratitude to the white revolutionary elite, and this was reflected in official propaganda with racist tropes.

From the Castro regime's publication Verde Olivo 1, no. 29 (October 1, 1960) a cartoon depicting Fidel Castro meeting with African Americans in Harlem in a pro-regime publication. On the left capitalists, and on the right Fidel Castro with black Americans featured with racist stereotypes.

Cuban blacks today that would have been political leaders in the 1940s and 1950s are dissidents persecuted, hunted and killed by the secret police.

The regime claims there is no racism in Cuba while poverty disproportionately impacts black people, and black voices are silenced.


Saturday, October 9, 2021

Note to His Admirers: Comandante Ernesto "Che" Guevara is still dead and his ideas are toxic

 "I'd like to confess, at that moment I discovered that I really like killing." Ernesto "Che" Guevara, in a letter to his father after executing an unarmed man.  


Che Guevara executed for trying to overthrow Bolivian govt on this day in 1967

Ideas have consequences and those ideas are sometimes represented in iconic images. This is the case of the image of Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his toxic philosophy of political action that others seek to emulate.  He embraced hatred and dehumanization of the other as the means to carry out what he thought necessary actions.

“Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary.”

Guevara's claim to fame was the role he played alongside Fidel and Raul Castro in installing a totalitarian communist regime in Cuba then attempting to spread this model using violent means in Africa and Latin America. 

Ernesto "Che" Guevara with a Cuban delegation visited Mainland China and met with Mao Zedong, Zhou Enlai, and other high ranking Chinese officials in November 1960 to discuss conditions in Cuba and in Latin America, and the prospects for communist revolution in the Western Hemisphere.  


Mao Ze Dong caused the deaths of an estimated 45 million Chinese people in his communist project through famine and mass executions.  He is the greatest mass murderer of the 20th century, and someone Guevara stayed allied to, even after the Castro regime cooled relations with Beijing siding with Moscow.

Months after the world came perilously close to a nuclear holocaust in October 1962, Che Guevara was disappointed. The Argentine declared in November 1962: "What we affirm is that we must proceed along the path of liberation even if this costs millions of atomic victims.”

Ernesto Guevara was executed  summarily on October 9, 1967 in La Higuera, Bolivia after he and his band of guerrillas were captured trying to overthrow the legitimate government there and install a Castro style dictatorship. His legacy at the time was already one of blood and terror that should be lamented not celebrated.

Comandante Ernesto "Che" Guevara is still dead, his ideas are still toxic, and need to be buried along with him.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Oslo Freedom Forum: Truth Ignited Oct 4 -5

"Human rights are universal and indivisible. Human freedom is also indivisible: if it is denied to anyone in the world, it is therefore denied, indirectly, to all people. This is why we cannot remain silent in the face of evil or violence; silence merely encourages them." - Vaclav Havel 

Since 2011 this blog has followed the Oslo Freedom Forum and the different human rights themes over the past decade, and  celebrated in 2012 when the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was inaugurated. This years theme is "Truth Ignited", and unlike other years, due to COVID-19 the Oslo Freedom Forum 2021 is being held in the capital of political exiles: Miami. Day one on the main stage is available online.

There are conversations underway that you should consider listening to, and reflecting on. The international human rights situation has been deteriorating for far too long, and the effects are impacting all of us.

Now is the time to leave our information silos prepared for us by social media giants, and re-engage on the ground in real conversations seeking our areas of both common agreement, and where we disagree to better understand each other. 

This process will help us to also live in truth to advance freedom, respect for the dignity of the other, and reviving human rights around the globe.

Day 2 promises to be interesting as well. Hope to see you there. Please spread the word and use the hashtags #TruthIgnited and #OFF2021

Update: Day 2 was remarkable. Presentations by several human rights icons, and a performance by Cuban musical icons Paquito D'Rivera,and Chucho Valdés.

See it all in the video below.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Join the non-violent movement for democracy and human rights in Cuba

"Use truth as your anvil, nonviolence as your hammer, and anything that does not stand the test when it is brought to the anvil of truth and hammered with nonviolence, reject it." - Mohandas Gandhi

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on day six of hunger strike in Cuba

Today in Cuba there are thousands of Cubans jailed for their nonviolent demand for an end to the Castro dictatorship expressed during the mid July 2021 protests. Hundreds have been identified that were jailed or disappeared. It is known that some have resorted to going on hunger strike to protest their unjust imprisonment. Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara is on a hunger strike that he began on September 27, 2021 and is still weak from a bout of COVID-19, and prior hunger strikes. This is part of the movement's repertoire of nonviolent tactics to resist the Castro regime.

Over the past few months some voices emerged in the diaspora calling for: a military response from external powers, the diaspora to arm themselves and invade Cuba or Cubans on the island to rise up violently against the dictatorship. The men and women in Cuba who have led protests on the island have maintained their non-violent posture, continue to call for civic resistance as the method to challenge the dictatorship, and are asking for active nonviolent solidarity from abroad. 

On July 27, 2021 the Christian Liberation Movement tweeted: "For solidarity with the freedom of Cubans. Eleven specific actions to isolate the regime. Christian Liberation Movement."

They said that although statements criticizing the dictatorship are welcome and needed that now is also the time for actions to isolate the Castro regime internationally, and sanction both the dictatorship collectively, and individual bad actors in the regime. These too are part of nonviolence, and requires international solidarity. Please share and support this campaign.

On August 25, 2021 the San Isidro Movement tweeted: "Help Civil Society - Look at the manual for non-violent struggle" and provided a link to their documents on strategic nonviolence, and how people of good will can help.

This is a moment in which many that have not been following the resistance movement on the island may believe that a quick violent action can remove this entrenched dictatorship. The opposition that has taken to the streets in Cuba does not advocate this, but are asking for supporters to be non-violent.

The rest of this essay seeks to provide an overview of the opposition's decision to opt for nonviolence, and how adopting violent resistance plays into the hands of the Castro regime.

The opposition in Cuba violently resisted the Castro dictatorship from 1959 to 1966.  In April of 1961 an expedition covertly supported by the United States was not provided sufficient air cover and support leading to their defeat, and the consolidation of communist rule in the island. Many of the Cubans who had fought alongside Castro, but felt betrayed when he installed a new dictatorship instead of restoring the democratic order, took up arms and went back into the hills. They were defeated by the regime and its Soviet allies that sent counter insurgency forces to battle the Cuban resistance in the Escambray after years of struggle in 1967.

Eusebio Peñalver with machine gun and Joaquin Membibre, with M-1 carbine

Eusebio Peñalver (pictured above) opposed the Batista regime and fought with the rebel army to restore Cuba's constitutional democracy. Mary O'Grady wrote about him in 2013 and quoted the Cuban warrior. 

"But when Castro hijacked the revolution for himself, Peñalver broke ranks rather than 'sell my soul to the same devil that here on earth is Castro and communism.'" He took up arms against Castro's military in the Escambray Mountains, he was captured in October 1960. He spent 28 years in Cuban prisons and was banished from the island upon his release in 1988. "From exile in Los Angeles he wrote about the 'naked brutality' and round-the-clock beating and harassment that he had endured: 'They made the men eat grass, they submerged them in sewage, they beat them hard with bayonets and they hit them with fence posts until their bones rattled.'

Total number of dead in this phase of the resistance remains unknown, but tens of thousands were jailed for decades. On January 28, 1976, within the Cuban prisons, dissidents and former members of the resistance came together to found the Cuban Committee for Human Rights.  This initiative to document human rights abuses in Cuba, and report them to the international community marked  the start of a non-violent resistance to the Castro regime.

Many movements would emerge over the next  45 years. It would be impossible to list them all. However, it would be worthwhile to highlight some that still exist today on the island. The Christian  Liberation Movement was founded in 1988, and in May 2002 with the Varela Project that thousands of Cubans signed onto forced the regime to change the constitution to counter it, and brought international attention to Cuba's democratic opposition. 

Oswaldo Payá Antonio Diaz, and Regis Iglesias turn in petition

In 1991 the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement came into existence calling for free thought in Cuban education, and a return to university autonomy. In 1997 the Lawton Foundation was founded by Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and sought to educate Cubans on human rights and strategic non-violence, explicitly embracing the legacies of Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin Luther King Jr. 

Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet

In 2003 following a major crackdown on the opposition due to the Varela Project initiative and overall growth in the democratic resistance the Ladies in White came into existence and through non-violent actions challenged the Castro regime to free their loved ones and to change the totalitarian penal code that creates prisoners of conscience. In 2011 following his release from eight years in prison, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia founded the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU).  

In 2018, following the announcement that the Cuban dictatorship would further restrict artistic freedoms with Decree 349, a collective of artists formed the San Isidro Movement to campaign against the repressive law

What they all have in common is the decision to use nonviolent means and strategies to challenge the Castro dictatorship.

Human action is a powerful force that must not to be underestimated, but to maximized it requires knowledge, strategic planning and courage. It also requires an understanding of the real nature of political power.

Professor Gene Sharp, a nonviolent theoretician who passed away on January 28, 2018, in his book, Waging Nonviolent Struggle: 20th Century Practice and 21st Century Potential, recognized that political power is "the totality of influences and pressures available for use to implement, change, or oppose official policies for a society." This means that political power "may be wielded by the institutions of government, or in opposition to the government by dissident groups and organizations."

According to Gene Sharp the sources of political power include "authority, human resources, skills and knowledge, intangible factors, material resources, and sanctions."

If we look at Cuba, the communist dictatorship there uses propaganda claims, both internally and internationally, to assert that the regime has achieved successes in education and health care. These are pillars of legitimacy and authority for the Castro regime. The dictatorship has also trained and staffed a massive intelligence apparatus to monitor and surveil the populace in Cuba trained by the East German Stasi and the Soviet KGB with 62 years of experience.

There is a large military that is heavily embedded in the Cuban economy, including tourism. In the area of skill and knowledge there is a dictatorship with 62 years of experience of imposing itself through violent means on the populace in Cuba, and overseas in places such as Ethiopia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. They have had experience in carrying out mass killings that rise to the level of genocide to assist client regimes. These first generation leaders are dying out, but many remain, including Raul Castro that have this knowledge and expertise in repression and terror.

One must consider the best course of action with the greatest likelihood of success while taking into account conditions on the ground.

Conservative activist Morton Blackwell explained a truth often ignored by activists of all ideological stripes in a talk titled "The Real Nature of Politics," which is required reading and offers three conclusions.

"1. Being right in the sense of being correct is not sufficient to win.  You don't win just because your heart is pure, even if you can prove logically that you are right.
2. The winner in a political contest over time is determined by the number and the effectiveness of the activists and leaders on the respective sides.
3. The number and effectiveness of the activists and leaders on a given side in a political contest is determined by the political technology used by that side."

These conclusions work both in a political struggle within a democratic order, and in confronting a dictatorship that does not play by democratic rules.  

These three ideas need to be present when planning resistance to the dictatorship in Cuba. 

The decision to confront with a violent strategy a regime with 62 years of expertise in exercising violence as an instrument of control with overseas experience in carrying out mass killings that rise to the level of genocide is a brave but foolish stand with little if any chance for success.

University academics and nonviolent theoreticians 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 achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.

Even the 26% figure needs to be looked at in the Cuban context.

The above mentioned Stephan, Chenoweth study also suggests “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.” This depends on the nonviolent opposition movement having a strategic vision and maintaining its non-violent posture even under the worse repression. However, according to Stephan and Chenoweth, the more brutal the regime the better the results with nonviolent resistance and the worse the outcomes with violent resistance. 

Long time Castro ally Bashar Hafez al-Assad with Raul Castro

This can be seen in Syria with long time Castro ally Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The uprising against Assad in 2011 was initially nonviolent and despite brutal repression by the Syrian regime the nonviolent opposition registered great victories. However, when elements of the Syrian military defected and the resistance abandoned its nonviolent posture in the belief that violent resistance would achieve change faster. The end result, rather than undermine the Assad regime, changed the entire dynamic of the struggle to a terrain favorable to Bashar Hafez al-Assad. The body count of the opposition skyrocketed, popular mobilization evaporated, Al Qaeda inflitrated the ranks of the opposition leading to international support drying up, and the Syrian dictatorship consolidated its rule.

Considering that the Cuban opposition in the island over the past 45 years decided to resist the Castro dictatorship using nonviolent means, that the democratic resistance today as evidenced by the start of the July 11, 2021 uprising did so non-violently, and that concrete calls for help from the island are asking for nonviolent solidarity both inside and outside of Cuba now is the time to step up with the support requested, and not resort to the siren call of violence that has failed in the past against this regime.

Today, October 2nd is the international day of nonviolence and the 152nd birth anniversary of Mohandas Gandhi. On this day let us remember our nonviolent icons in Cuba and share their message with the world, and continue to carry out concrete actions to restore democracy, the rule of law, and accountability for those engaged in human rights violations.

"The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: ‘You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together’." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas

“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba, so be it.” - Laura Pollán