Tuesday, March 29, 2022

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

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

Joachim Løvschall: December 7, 1970 - March 29, 1997

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

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

Joachim was never seen alive again. 

Last seen in the front of Cafe Cantante

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

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

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

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down. The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.

Joachim Løvschall gunned down in Cuba in 1997

Fifteen years ago

On June 12, 2007 Christian Løvschall, Joachim's father, at a parallel forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council spoke about his son's disappearance and the struggle to find out if Joachim was dead or alive:

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

Friday, March 18, 2022

Remembering the 2003 Black Cuban Spring, the failure of the UN Human Rights Council, and the terror in Cuba today

Remembering the 2003 Black Cuban Spring, the long winter, and the new Black Spring

Nun places sun flowers to images of 75 Cubans jailed in 2003

Nineteen years ago on March 18, 2003 a crackdown began in Cuba on the eve of the United States going to war in Iraq. Scores of nonviolent Cuban dissidents were rounded up and subjected to political show trials. 75 were condemned to lengthy prison terms of up to 28 years in prison. This became known as the Black Cuban Spring

This past year the Castro regime carried out a crackdown not seen since 2003, and that may exceed it. On March 16, 2022 the draconian sentences were justified in an official communication that marked a new Black Spring for hundreds of imprisoned Cubans and their families. Many of the jailed are young Cubans.

Some of the young Cubans sentenced to long prison terms (Photo: Claudia Peiro)

The Cuban dictatorship released a statement on March 16, 2022 that "it had sentenced upwards of 100 protesters in Havana to between 4 and 30 years in prison for violence committed during island-wide demonstrations last year, the largest since Fidel Castro's 1959 revolution," reported Reuters and other news outlets.

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, age 36, shot in the back on July 12, 2021

Regime officials failed to mention that it was they who had initiated and carried out the deadly violence that day, not anti-government demonstrators who were non-violent. On July 12, 2021, during the 11J protests, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, age 36, was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba. He was not the only one shot by them.

Worse yet, the longest sentences handed out were for video recording the protests. Cubans that recorded or live streamed the protests were accused of sedition. Here are four high profile cases.

Dayron Martín sentenced to 30 years of prison for filming protests (Photo: Claudia Peiro)

France24 reported on the plight of Dayron Martín Rodríguez (age 36) who was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was "detained in La Güinera. He was out "to buy food for his pigeons when he ran into the rally," said his mother, Esmeralda Rodríguez (age 63), who added that "he started recording to send his father the video." He felt the stones hitting him, he fell and lost his phone. Video emerged during the 11J protests of police throwing rocks and firing on unarmed protesters. Esmeralda Rodríguez, "suffered a pre-infarction when she found out in Ecuador, where she emigrated. eight years ago" that her son had been sentenced to 30 years in prison. 

German tourist and dual citizen, Luis Frómeta Compte, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on December 23, 2021 for spontaneously filming a demonstration in Havana for private purposes with his smartphone while visiting relatives and was subsequently arrested. According to the Frankfurt arm of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), "the Dresden family man is one of about two thousand demonstrators arrested on July 11 during protests against the dictatorship." ISHR strongly criticized the long prison sentence and pointed out that, in the meantime, the 59-year-old’s brother-in-law is also in pre-trial detention.

Fredy Beirut (age 64) and Katia Beirut (age 36) each sentenced to 20 years in prison

Agence France Presse reported on the plight of a father and daughter punished for filming the protests.  Fredy Beirut (age 64) and Katia Beirut (age 36) who filmed the July 2022 protests were each sentenced to 20 years in prison. The father will emerge from prison at 84 years of age, and the daughter will be 56 years old.

Filming, and bearing witness can end your life as a free person in Cuba. 19 years ago it was organizing a petition drive, or being an independent journalist or human rights activist that could cost you a 28 year prison sentence.

The majority of the activists imprisoned in 2003 had participated in the Varela Project, a petition drive that called for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses. 11,020 signatures had been turned in 10 months earlier on May 10, 2002. 
The regime responded with its own mandatory petition drive to make the Cuban Constitution unchangeable. 
The Economist in its December 14, 2005 issue published a conversation with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas titled "An unsilenced voice for change" that outlined what had taken place:
Between 2001 and 2004, Mr Payá's movement gathered 25,000 signatures in a vain attempt to persuade Cuba's National Assembly to change the constitution to allow multi-party democracy. Activists of his Christian Liberation Movement made up more than two-thirds of the 75 dissidents and journalists rounded up and jailed for long terms in April 2003. [...] Spain is “complaisant” with Mr Castro's regime, Mr Payá says. “We need a campaign of support and solidarity with peaceful change in Cuba” of the kind that brought an end to apartheid in South Africa and to the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile.

It took over eight years, but the last of the group of the 75 were eventually released. This was in large part due to the Ladies in White and international solidarity campaigns carried out by NGOs, but the international community failed to call out Havana's impunity.

Castro expected the March 2003 crackdown, dubbed the “Black Cuban Spring,” to be the end of the opposition. Instead, it sparked the emergence of a new movement, the Ladies in White, led by the wives, mothers, sisters and daughters of the men jailed. For eight years, these women lobbied, protested and marched for their loved ones’ freedom. They were successful, and the last of the men were released from prison in 2011, a nonviolent victory over the dictatorship. The Ladies in White continue to the present day, demanding human rights be respected in Cuba.

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

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

Oswaldo was murdered along with the Christian Liberation Movement's youth leader Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012. His successor Eduardo Cardet was a prisoner of conscience from November 30, 2016 through September 3, 2019. He was jailed for giving a frank assessment of Fidel Castro's legacy following his death on November 25, 2016.

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

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

Throughout this entire period, despite repeated requests, the Castro regime has not allowed the International Committee of the Red Cross to visit prisons in Cuba. 

Prison conditions are so poor that of the 75 imprisoned in 2003, fourteen have died, many due to conditions arising from their time in prison. There names are: Orlando Zapata, Miguel Tamayo, Antonio Villarreal, Arturo Pérez, Jorge Luis González, José G. Ramón, Julio César Gálvez, Omar Pernet, Raúl Rivero, Julio A. Valdés, Arnaldo Ramos, Carmelo Díaz, Orlando Fundora, and Oscar M. Espinosa.

Cubans jailed during the 2003 Black Spring that died before their time. (Photo: Regis Iglesias )

This failure of accountability led to greater levels of violence and repression by the Cuban dictatorship that continues to sit on the UN Human Rights Council. The regime in Havana is an outlaw regime, and cannot be trusted.

This can be seen in their legal system and how it treats poor Cubans.

Havana Times reported on La Guinera, a Havana neighborhood, "where 96 of the 790 people in Cuba for taking part in the protests on July 11th and 12th, that is to say, 12 out of every 100 people arrested for protesting are La Guinera locals." Regime claims do not hold up when their own documents are examined, demonstrates Havana Times citing official documents.

"The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that sedition charges against La Guinera residents are due to the 'level of violence in vandalic acts that in a riot-like situation led to injuries and put the lives of civilians, public officials and law enforcement officers at risk, by attacking them with sharp, blunt and incendiary objects, seriously disturbing public order with the deliberate purpose of subverting rule of law.' However, these same records state that in La Guinera police patrol cars weren’t attacked —unlike other parts of the country—, and the highly-criticized dollar stores weren’t vandalized, there was no looting or serious damage to property. Furthermore, those charged with sedition include people who were only recording and live streaming events on Facebook, without taking part in any conflict with the police, as well as detainees who the Public Prosecutor’s Office is charging with sedition for the simple fact they were present in the crowd that prevented public order."

The pattern repeats itself, the longest prison sentences are meted out to those accused of sedition for "recording and live streaming events on Facebook, without taking part in any conflict with the police" or "for the simple fact they were present in the crowd." Press bureaus in Havana, perhaps in order not to be expelled, failed to report that deadly violence came not from the protesters, but from regime agents, and counter protesters that they head armed with clubs and bussed in to violently shut down what had been peaceful protests. Havana Times offers the following in evidence that conflicts with the official version.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office also justifies sedition charges by saying detainees attacked and injured police officers and counter-protestors without reason, but this statement also falters. Stones and objects were thrown during the protests, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office was unable to find police officers and counter-protestors who sustained severe injuries. The records state that only three counter-protestors were injured and none of them required medical attention. In the case of police officers, 14 were injured, and only one needed medical attention. On the contrary, during the police’s response —involving the use of firearms—, Diubis Laurencio lost his life, the only fatality recognized by the Government, and many protestors were hit by bullets, including minors. “I was told my wife went to look for my stepson at the protest. She didn’t find him, and she soon found out that he had been hit by a bullet in his knee, just before they killed the other young man,” Janoi Ceballos wrote in a text message, the step-father of 16-year-old Cuban teenager Misael Yoel Fuentes Garcia, who was injured in La Guinera.

Dictatorship's need to be held accountable, at least ostracized, and removed from international human rights bodies. Western democracies, such as the Spanish government, should not be selling weapons to the Cuban dictatorship to use them against the Cuban people. 

These failings on the international stage have real world consequences as we are seeing today in Ukraine.

This is why we are circulating a petition to leaders in the Western democracies and the international community to finally hold the dictatorship in Havana accountable.


Thursday, March 10, 2022

March 10th: Cuba and Tibet's shared day of tragedy

We Remember

Tibetan national uprising crushed by Mao, Cuban democracy destroyed by Batista

Cubans and Tibetans share two things in common despite our profoundly different histories and religious traditions that bring us together in shared misery. March 10th is a tragic day for both nations. Although separated by seven years, March 10th is a day for somber reflection.

Both peoples suffered under tyranny since the early 1950s and seven decades later continue to struggle for freedom's restoration. China became a communist regime in 1949 and immediately began asserting territorial designs on Tibet. Communist China invaded and occupied Tibet in 1950


Cuba was a free and independent republic with a constitutional democracy until March 10, 1952 when Fulgencio Batista overthrew the democracy in a coup d'état against the last democratically elected president, Carlos Prio Socarras within days of free elections. This meant that Cuba's last free election was in 1950. Batista claimed that he carried out the coup to prevent an extreme dictatorship from taking over, but the irony is that the destruction of Cuban democracy by him created the conditions for Fidel Castro to take over seven years later.

Both Cubans and Tibetans looked to 1959 as an opportunity for democratic restoration and liberation. Instead tyranny entrenched itself. 

The Cuban nightmare began amidst the hope on January 1, 1959 that the departure of Fulgencio Batista into exile would mean a democratic restoration and an end to authoritarian tyranny instead it was the beginning of a new totalitarian communist tyranny headed by Fidel Castro. 

Cloaking itself in the legitimacy of nationalism and anti-Americanism it justified the systematic denial of human rights in the rhetoric of anti-imperialism and the “Yankee threat.”

Tibetan hopes that a national uprising that erupted in Lhasa on March 10, 1959 would drive the Chinese occupiers out of their homeland. Instead His Holiness the Dalai Lama had to flee to India to avoid imprisonment or assassination as the Chinese communists crushed the uprising.

The Castro regime claim of "anti-imperialism" proved hollow and history demonstrated that it was conditioned upon ideology. This was witnessed with the Castro regime’s support of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and later its invasion of Afghanistan in 1979

The same holds true for Tibet. Fidel Castro in his March 31, 2008 “reflection” titled “The Chinese Victory” denies that Tibet was ever independent justifying and defending the Chinese occupation of that small country. It is a shameful rewriting of history.

The Castro regime has continued this practice to the present day with Russia's repeated aggressions against its neighbors.

Vladimir Putin's attacks against Georgia in 2008Crimea in 2014 and the eight years long low intensity war in the Donbas region in Eastern Ukraine, and the February 24, 2022, multipronged Russian invasion of Ukraine were all acts of aggression in violation of international law.

The Russian dictator's repeated aggressions were backed by Cuba in 20082014 and now in 2022. The Castro regime's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez on Putin's latest invasion of Ukraine said that Russia “has the right to defend itself.

Both the Castro regime and the Chinese communists must be held accountable for their many crimes, their hypocrisy on the issue of imperialism, and the historical facts they have sought to disappear must be shared widely. 

At the same time, today, March 10th is an important day for Cubans to remember the destruction of Cuba's democracy by Fulgencio Batista, and the consequences of that coup against the democratic order that still impact Cuba today.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

70 Years without Democracy in Cuba: 7 Years of authoritarianism with Batista and 63+ Years of totalitarianism with the Castros

 From bad (authoritarian dictatorship) to worse (totalitarian dictatorship)

#TheyAreContinuity #TheyAreDictators ( #SomosContinuidad #SonDictadores)

Democracy ended in Cuba seventy years ago on March 10, 1952. It was ended by General Fulgencio Batista who carried out a military coup against the legitimately elected democratic government. The last democratically elected president, Carlos Prio, and his first lady went into exile, and over the next seven years, an authoritarian dictatorship ruled Cuba, becoming increasingly unpopular.  

The refusal of Batista to give up power through a process of dialogue opened the path for Fidel and Raul Castro to violently seize it, but they did not do it alone.

They had the help of the Communist InternationalThe 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, the authoritarian dictator fled Cuba in the early morning hours of January 1, 1959.

Presidents of Cuba from 1902 to 1952 and dictator Batista

This put an end to a half century of democratic Cuban governments, and within nine years the Castro regime seized Cuban's private sector and centralized economic control under Havana's totalitarian communist dictatorship. Cuba's official motto was changed from Homeland and Liberty (Patria y Libertad) by the new communist regime to Homeland or Death, We Shall Triumph (¡Patria o Muerte, Venceremos!).

Since the beginning of their struggle in 1953, the Castro brothers pledged a democratic restoration in Cuba, but all along planned a Marxist-Leninist takeover and the imposition of a totalitarian 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, creating misery for millions.

Firing squads in Cuba ordered by the Castro brothers

The Communist regime rewrote Cuban history, creating myths to justify its tyrannical rule. The reality was that between 1902 and 1952, there existed in Cuba a system that had overseen rising living standards for five decades and had been on the cutting edge of human rights. The Marxist-Leninist dictatorship would declare war on human rights at home and abroad. 

Generations of Cubans resisted this communist dictatorship from 1959 to the present. 

Tens of thousands of Cubans risked everything in July 2021, taking to the streets in peaceful protests demanding an end to the dictatorship. The Castro regime responded by firing on unarmed protesters, imprisoning hundreds, and condemning many of them to 20 and 30 year prison sentences over the Christmas holidays for exercising their right to peaceful assembly.

On the streets of Cuba on July 11, 2021

On this March 10th, as Cubans observe 70 years without democracy and pledge to redouble their efforts to achieve a democratic restoration in Cuba it is a good moment to condemn the Castro dictatorship for its 63-year betrayal of the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people.  It is a good day to remember President Carlos Prio Socarrás and his wife Mary Tarrero de Prio.

President Carlos Prio Socarrás and his wife Mary Tarrero de Prio

Peaceful protests outside of Cuban embassies that recognize the reality that the Castro brothers overthrew an authoritarian dictatorship that had been in power for seven years to impose a totalitarian one that has marked 63 years in power and continues to silence and jail non-violent dissidents, and when they are too effective in their activism, kill them.

If you can't make it to the Embassy, then at least take action signing this appeal for an end to repression in Cuba and release of all Cuban political prisoners addressed to the international community.

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

International Women's Day 2022: Reflection on women leaders around the world

 "We still think of a powerful man as a born leader and a powerful woman as an anomaly". - Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale

In 2020 focused on the problematic origins of International Women's Day, but today reflect on women who have achieved power around the world by both democratic and other means
Capitalist Democracies have seen the rise of women leaders around the world: Golda Meir in Israel, Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom, Indira Gandhi in India, Angela Merkel in Germany, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in Iceland, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia, Kim Campbell in Canada, Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Erna Solberg in Norway, Simonetta Sommaruga in Switzerland, and the list goes on for a while.  
Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher
Women leaders in communist regimes are few and far between, such as Jiang Qing in China, Elena Ceaușescu in Romania, and Vilma Espín in Cuba became high profile figures because of their respective husbands and owed whatever power they had to these male leaders. 
Independent women with popular support and their own power base did not (and do not) fare well in these regimes.
In the Cuban case strong women, not related or backing the Castro brothers, were subjected to violent repression and exile or death.
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 for founding the Ladies in White movement after the Black Cuban Spring of 2003. She, and the group of women she led, nonviolently challenged the Castro regime in the streets of Havana initially, 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. She did not disband the Ladies in White when her husband returned home. Laura recognized that the laws had not changed, that prisoners of conscience remained behind bars and that she would continue her human rights activism. This is why the Castro regime did away with her on October 14, 2011.
Ladies in White continue in their activism in Cuba a decade after Laura's death
Lady in White Daisy Cuello Basulto denounced that her 21 year old daughter was arrestedviolently stripped and forced to urinate in front of police officers in a police station in Cotorro. The 21 year old was arrested along with her mom and other family on September 27, 2015 while on their way to attend the Sunday march of the Ladies in White. In the police station "she was humiliated," although she refused to urinate in front of the agentswho constantly jeered at her, explained her mother in an interview with Radio República. The young woman was locked in a cell with a strong smell of hydrochloric acid and now suffers from a sore throat. "She has a fever and feels very bad," reported her mother.
 This has gone on for decades.
Maria Elena Cruz Varela (1991)
Thirty-one years earlier on November 19, 1991 Cuban poet Mariela Elena Cruz Varela, who peacefully dissented asking for nonviolent change, was assaulted by a mob organized by the dictatorship who tried to force feed the poet her own words. She wrote about the assault in her book, Dios en las cárceles cubanas (God in the Cuban jails):
"They broke my mouth trying to make me swallow the leaflets that members of my group had distributed throughout HavanaAfterwards I spent three days brutally besiegedimprisoned in my own home with my two children, with no water, no electricityno food, no cigarettesWe heard what the huge speakers never stopped amplifyingallegorical songs to the country, the necessary punishment of traitorsand anyone who wanted to could shout at meorganized, of course, the slogans they pleasedComrade wormwe are going to execute you by firing squad!"
And the violence continues today against women in Cuba, who demonstrate leadership. Cuban dissident Sirley Ávila León, age 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack on May 24, 2015 by Osmany Carrión who had been "sent by state security thugs" and that she is sure that the aggression "was politically motivated." 
Sirley Ávila León in May 2015
The attack was severe enough that she suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand and nearly lost her right arm. Sirley had been a local official who had sought the reopening of a school for Cuban children and drew the ire of the dictatorship with her persistent demands.
Laura, Maria Elena, and Sirley were leaders that in a democratic Cuba would have had leadership positions in government, and at least one could have become president, but Cuba is a communist, male dominated dictatorship.  
47 Chinese activists were arrested in January 2021 and now face life sentences for organizing an unofficial primary to choose opposition candidates for the now-postponed 2020 Legislative Council election. It attracted approximately 600,000 voters. One of the youngest defendants is a  23-year-old young woman, Wong Ji-yuet, she is a first time political hopeful. The pro-democratic primary nominee won 22,911 votes, and came in third in the NTW Constituency in Hong Kong. She is a political leader.
Wong Ji-yuet, 23-year-old young woman

In the Orwellian world that is the Peoples Republic of China in the 21st century, exercising democratic rights under the National Security Law imposed last year on Hong Kong is grounds for a maximum sentence of life in prison
What of women communist leaders? They appear to achieve power through their husbands, and their fortunes rise and fall with their spouse. They also have a poor track record on women's liberation. Considering that Elena Ceausescu is considered one such "leader" as the First Vice Chairwoman of the Council of Ministers. Her husband, Nicolae Ceausescu, presided over policies that were not pro-women.
Elena Ceaușescu and Nicolae Ceausescu

Shannon Quinn authored the essay "17 Moments In History that Inspired the Handmaid’s Tale" in History Collection and provides a summary of Ceauşescu's Decree 770 policy for women.
One of the specific events that Margaret Atwood found during her research process was “Decree 770” in Romania. This was a law that passed in 1967 that made abortions and all forms of contraception illegal. This had nothing to do with religious beliefs. It was an action that the government believed was necessary for the future of their country. The government already taxed married couples a 6% income tax if they did not have children between the ages of 25 and 50, but they realized that this was not enough to stop people from using contraception.

During the 1950’s, Romanian women were entering the workforce and having fewer children. By the 1960’s, abortion became a common practice, because there were very few birth control options available to women to prevent pregnancy. This began a sharp dip in the country’s birth rate. The Communist Party wanted the population to increase from 23 million to 30 million in a single year, so they enacted Decree 770. After the change of law in 1967, and women no longer had access to birth control, the number of babies born that year skyrocketed to roughly double what they had been the year before. Thousands of new preschools and nursery schools had to be built. Orphanages were overflowing with children whose parents could not afford them.  Aside from making abortions illegal and taking contraception off of store shelves, women’s bodies were literally policed. Decree 770 forced women to visit the gynecologist once a month to check for pregnancy, and police officers stood in the halls to make sure women complied. If a woman was pregnant, the doctors followed her progress very closely. Wealthy women were able to buy birth control pills and condoms on the black market, but poor women did not have that option. There were some cases where women caught the pregnancy before the doctors did, and some women died while attempting to give themselves an at-home abortion. The policy continued until the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1980’s.

Hundreds of thousands of children were subjected to this in Romania, and millions of women were forced to have children.

International Women's Day should be a day to celebrate democracy and markets as instruments for the empowerment of women, and observe closely the dystopian record for women under communist regimes, and resolve to resist the system that inspired Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale