Saturday, May 20, 2017

Venezuelan general recorded advocating snipers against street demonstrators in Venezuela

 Murdering the future in Venezuela

Génesis Carmona: Shot in the head by a sniper on February 18, 2014
On May 18, 2017 The Miami Herald reported that it had a secret recording of a Venezuelan general advocating for the use of snipers against street demonstrators "in the future." The sad news is that this has been a practice long adopted by the Maduro regime in Venezuela.

Beginning on February 12, 2014 regime agents shot Bassil Alejandro Dacosta, age 24 in the head.  One of the young students who carried Bassil off  after he was shot was Robert Redman, age 28, who reported later that day over twitter: "Today I was hit with a rock in the back, a helmet in my nose. I swallowed tear-gas, Carried the kid who died, and what did you do?" That same day he was also gunned down by Maduro's colectivos, working in concert with his security forces, and murdered. The killings continued

A high profile killing that shocked the world was the murder of a local beauty queen. Génesis Carmona was just 22 years old and nonviolently expressing her desire for a better Venezuela when she was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 and died a day later on February 19, 2014. Three years have passed and those responsible for her murder have yet to be punished.

The nonviolent street demonstrations organized by university students have captured the imagination of most Venezuelans and the world in general. It has also drawn the rage of the Maduro regime and their Cuban advisors. They have responded by murdering children to terrorize the protesters.

Kluiverth Roa, age 14, shot in the head by BNP in Venezuela on February 24th
 The snipers have been busy at work over the past three years attempting to create a climate of terror. The bodies have piled up over the years and the pattern is clear and has been denounced by human rights organizations in Venezula and by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
Venezuelan human rights organization, Provea, over twitter on February 25, 2015 reported on the killing of a 14-year old stating: "Killing of  Roa Kluiverth is not an isolated event, but is a consequence of the rise of repression in the country."

Paola Ramírez and Carlos Moreno both shot in the head on April 19, 2017 in Venezuela.
 We may be powerless to stop the killing but we must not stop denouncing the crimes against humanity being committed by the Maduro regime and work towards the day that those responsible be held accountable in a court of law. In the meantime let us remember those who have been killed, tragically their ranks continue to grow.

Some of the young Venezuelans shot in the head by Maduro's agents

Friday, May 19, 2017

Two Cubans fleeing the island picked up by the Coast Guard and will be returned to Cuba

Cubans are still fleeing the Castro regime despite the gutting of the Cuban Adjustment Act

Two Cuban fisherman "adrift" for three days rescued by the U.S. Coastguard
 The U.S. Coastguard was reporting that thanks to Obama curtailing the Cuban Adjustment Act there were no Cuban rafters picked up in April 2017 and claimed that Cubans were no longer fleeing to the United States. They may want to reconsider that statement.

On May 19, 2017 the headline read "2 Cuban fishermen rescued by Coast Guard after 3 days adrift at sea" and the article said they would be returned to Cuba.  I wonder if there will now be a pattern of "fishermen" adrift in boats or rafts needing "rescuing" and being returned to the Castro dictatorship?

I've said it before and repeat here now. Cubans do not leave their homeland seeking the American dream but fleeing the nightmare regime created by the Castro brothers that has been destroying lives for the past 58 years. The door has been closed, but Cubans will continue to flee tyranny. Only now they will be illegal immigrants in the United States subject to deportation.

The Obama Administration closed the door on Cuban refugees on January 12, 2017 on his way out of The White House. President Bill Clinton narrowed the door in 1995 with the invention of the "wet foot dry foot policy" that circumvented U.S. law and President Barack Obama slammed it shut  in 2017. On both occasions this was done in consultation with the Castro regime but not the U.S. Congress.

What goes unmentioned in the reporting is that the down tick in Cubans fleeing to the United States normally occurs during Republican administrations, who have taken a harder line on the Castro dictatorship. This pattern was repeated with Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43 and may now be occurring with the Trump presidency.

On the eve of Cuban independence and on the anniversary of the death of Jose Marti it is a shame that free Cubans still choose to risk their lives in the Florida Straits where many have died to escape a cruel dictatorship that has spent 58 years denying liberty to Cubans and rewriting the island's past to avoid condemnation for their dismal record..

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Totalitarian repression on the march in Cuba: Claiming new victims and martyrs

Old patterns of repression continue to ensnare new generations 

Clockwise: Harold Cepero, Sayli Navarro, David Mauri, Fếlix Yuniel, Karla Pérez,
Cuban students are expelled from school for refusing to repeat the old tired cliches of the revolution. Fếlix Yuniel Llerena López, a 20 year-old religious freedom defender, was expelled from the Enrique José Varona Pedagogical University in Havana on May 8, 2017 following a visit to the United States. 18-year-old journalism student, Karla Pérez González, was expelled from Marta Abreu University of Santa Clara for “political reasons” on April 12, 2017 and her expulsion ratified three days later on April 15th. 24 year old David Mauri Cardoso was expelled from the University of Cienfuegos in February of 2017 after he honestly answered politically loaded questions in what was supposed to be a Spanish literature exam.

This is not a new tactic. Expelling students and denying them an education for their political orientation has a long and shameful history, too often ignored. Sayli Navarro was expelled from her university in Matanzas for her political views in 2009. On  November 13, 2002 Harold Cepero Escalante and Yoan Columbié Rodriguez,  students in their fourth year of Veterinary Medicine, were expelled from the University of Camagüey and subjected to an act of repudiation after having signed a legal petition for human rights reforms called the Varela Project. This practice is not new. Fidel Castro declared in June of 1961 that outside of the revolution there are no rights. The regime also declared that universities are for revolutionaries.

Prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet serving unjust three year prison sentence
It does not end with school. Even professionals who dissent that have life giving skills are imprisoned and not allowed to practice their profession. A medical doctor, Eduardo Cardet, has been jailed since November 30, 2016 for speaking critically about Fidel Castro's legacy in Cuba. There is no independent judiciary in Cuba and the puppet court according to his attorney has affirmed Eduardo's three year prison sentence.  No more appeals.

Pastor Ramon Rigal (on the right) serving a year in prison for homeschooling his kids.
In Cuba not only are students expelled from school for refusing to tow the official line, but parents are jailed for trying to home school. Pastor Ramon Rigal was sentenced on April 25, 2017 to one year in prison for the "crime" of homeschooling his own kids.

Peaceful dissent, and self-expression do not only invite expulsion from school and prison but can lead to an untimely death. Harold Cepero, the 2002 expelled veterinary student, was murdered along with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, the founding leader of the Christian Liberation Movement,  on July 22, 2012. Less than ten years after his expulsion.

This is Cuba today a totalitarian nightmare that many still try to flee and a few remain to courageously resist. There is nothing romantic about a 58 year old repressive dictatorship.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Project Varela: Looking back at the nonviolent campaign 15 years later

The nonviolent campaign that shook up the dictatorship in Cuba, changed the Cuban Communist Constitution and continues to haunt the Castro regime.

15 years ago today, carrying 11,020 signed petitions in support of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and  Regis Iglesias Ramírez walked with the bulky card board boxes labeled Project Varela turning them into the Cuban National Assembly. The New York Times reported on this historic event:
"Two days before a historic visit to Cuba by the former President Jimmy Carter, human rights activists today delivered an extraordinary challenge to the Communist government of President Fidel Castro in the form of petitions signed by more than 11,000 people seeking greater freedom. The petition drive, known as the Varela Project, calls 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. The signed petitions were delivered this morning to the National Assembly, after supporters painstakingly verified each signature, in the most significant peaceful effort to bring reform to Cuba in four decades. ''All of these Cubans, who with great courage and sacrifice have signed Project Varela, are the social vanguard for peaceful change in Cuba,'' said Oswaldo Paya, who led the drive. He said changes in the rights of Cubans could only be achieved peacefully.
The three activists, members of the Christian Liberation Movement, would pay a high price, along with dozens of others, for advocating human rights reforms within the existing legal frame work in Cuba. In March of 2003 both Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and Regis Iglesias were arrested and subjected to political show trials and sentenced to long prison sentences. They would spend years in prison followed by forced exile. Oswaldo Payá was killed on July 22, 2012 under circumstances that point to a state security orchestrated extrajudicial execution.

Father Felix Varela

The Varela Project, named after the Cuban Catholic Priest Felix Varela, sought to reform the Cuban legal system to bring it in line with international human rights standards. They had followed the letter of the law in organizing the campaign and yet the dictatorship's response to a nonviolent citizen's initiative was to first coerce Cubans into signing another petition declaring the Constitution unchangeable and quickly passed it through the rubber stamp legislature without debating the Varela Project, which according to the Cuban law drafted by the dictatorship meant that it should have been debated by the National Assembly.

Oswaldo Payá Antonio Diaz, and Regis Iglesias after turning in signatures

Ten months later on March 18, 2003 the Black Cuban Spring would begin with a massive crackdown on Cuba's civil society with many of the organizers of Project Varela, imprisoned and summarily sentenced up to 28 years in prison. The 75 activists who had been imprisoned with long prison sentences became known as the "group of the 75."

The dictatorship announced, at the time, that the Cuban dissident movement had been destroyed but the Castro regime was mistaken. First, the remaining activists who were still free continued gathering signatures and would turn in another 14,384 petition signatures on October 5, 2003. Secondly, the wives, sisters and daughters of the activists who had been detained and imprisoned organized themselves into the "Ladies in White." A movement that sought the freedom of their loved ones and organized regular marches through the streets of Cuba, despite regime organized violence visited upon them.

Regis Iglesias with Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia
The Economist in its December 14, 2005 issue published a conversation with Oswaldo Paya 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. Many were driven into exile but  a core group remain in Cuba and are still defiant. One  of the Project Varela leaders still active and mobilizing large numbers today is Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, but others  lost their lives defending human rights and dignity who had also gathered signatures for the Varela Project, such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Project Varela petitions delivered in 2002, 2003 and 2016

Project Varela lives and on March 24, 2016 another 10,000 signatures were turned into the National Assembly bringing the total number of petitions signed in Cuba to 35,404. 

Today in Madrid Cardinal Jaime Ortega was asked about when Regis Iglesias Ramírez would be able to return to Cuba and responded that "Of course, but the regime will not allow Regis to return to organize the Christian Liberation Movement ... For that I do not think they will let him return." Since July of 2012 Regis has been officially requesting to return to Cuba and been denied the right to return to his homeland.  Cardinal Ortega also made no mention that the current National Coordinator, Eduardo Cardet is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience jailed since November 30, 2016 for criticizing Fidel Castro's legacy.

Over Facebook Antonio Diaz Sanchez wrote: "We do not want to let this day go by, without making it clear to the world that even with our sadness remembering our brothers vilely murdered and with constant concern for our political prisoners today in jail we hold, by virtue of our loyalty to our heroes, out of respect for our prisoners, for the love of our country and all Cubans, our clear will to continue working civically and nonviolently to recover for the people of Cuba their legitimate right to sovereignty."

Fifteen years later the Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement issued a statement to all those who signed the petitioned turned in on May 10, 2002 concluding:
Today, wherever they may be, we want to congratulate our 11,020 compatriots who, on May 10, 2002, demanded the regime respect all the rights for all Cubans, with their name, address, identification number and signature supporting the Plebiscite of the Varela Project. They are the true heroes. Thanks to their generosity, their courage, their commitment, at that moment we were all free. Long live Oswaldo and Harold! Freedom for Eduardo Cardet and all political prisoners! Viva the Varela Project!
Cubans have demonstrated not only their desire for human rights and freedom but the persistence and courage to back it up with civic action despite the high price they've paid.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Cuban dissident beaten to death by Castro's political police died six years ago today

The hope of impunity is the greatest inducement to do wrong. - Marcus Tullius Cicero

Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia died three days after beating by political police
Six years ago the headlines circled the world in English and in Spanish covered by Reuters, the BBC, CNN, AFP, AP, EFE that a Cuban dissident and former political prisoner, Juan Wilfredo Soto (age 46) had been beaten and arrested by Cuban regime police on Thursday, May 5, 2011 while protesting the dictatorship and died early on Sunday May 8, 2011. The beating had been so bad that he required hospitalization. He was buried Sunday, on Mother's Day.

There are others but the regime has been often successful in intimidating family members and destroying the evidence of their crimes. "This act of police violence is not an isolated case. Each day in Cuba those in uniform respect less the citizens," said Yoani Sanchez over Twitter on the day of the burial.

According to dissidents who attended and media accounts more than 80 attended Juan Wilfredo Soto's funeral despite a heavy police presence and state security operation that blocked some activists from attending. The government agents responsible for this man's extra-judicial death must be held accountable if not by national laws then by international law.  At the funeral a Cuban pastor spoke about the life of the Cuban activist and the circumstances surrounding his death.

Juan Wilfredo Soto left behind two children and their mom. He was a member of the Opposition Central Coalition and was known as "The Student." He was a former political prisoner who had served 12 years in prison. His mother, who suffers from a bad hip, buried her son on Mother's Day. Pictures of Juan Wilfredo Soto's family members provided by Yoani Sanchez through twitter.

Children of Juan Wilfredo Soto mourn their dad
 Six years have passed and justice has not been done in this case. Nevertheless we must remember, and with this exercise of memory continue to demand justice for Juan Wilfredo and his loved ones.