When Faced With an Inflexible Regime

Saturday, June 27, 2009
Last week, Yoani Sanchez, Cuba's "Generation Y" blogger, told Reuters that change in Cuba was "inevitable," as the people were visibly losing their fear to challenge the regime.
 
This week, Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, Cuban writer, former editor of the Catholic publication "Vitral" and civil society activist, echoed that sentiment in an interview with Radio Marti:
 
"When faced with a regime that has declared itself inflexible, people lose their fear.  They are finding means to express themselves without taboos regarding the critical social, political and economic crisis facing the nation."
 
As regards, the pro-democracy protests in Iran, Valdes added:
 
"What is taking place in Iran is proof that no authority can repress the free spirit of mankind."

Student Disappointed in Obama

To the Editor of The Washington Post:

As one of the young people who watched President Obama's campaign sweep the nation last year with promises of "change" and "hope," I was disappointed that the president wouldn't grant an audience to Bertha Antúnez, a representative for the Cuban dissidents who were awarded the National Endowment for Democracy's annual Democracy Award ["Cuba Dissidents Win Award but Not Obama Audience," June 25].

While Mr. Obama's statement on the awards was strong, it rings hollow without action. How can pro-democracy Cubans feel hopeful and fight for change when someone who should be their greatest ally won't spare a few minutes to listen to their plight? It would appear that Mr. Obama isn't really interested in spreading the messages he campaigned on to Cuba.

The article mentioned Mr. Obama's campaign statement that "libertad" would be the focus of his relations with Cuba. Who better to discuss the meaning of liberty, particularly in Cuba, than dissidents who haven't been able to experience it? Perhaps it would be wise for the Obama administration to take its cues on Cuba from those who have experienced brutal oppression instead of from Cuban diplomats.

Mr. Obama should make the time to meet with a freedom fighter who should be admired by all Americans for her and her family's dedication to democracy and liberty.

BRITTNEY MORRETT
Vice President, George Washington University Students for a Free Cuba
Washington, D.C.

The Contagion Effect of Iran's Protests

Apparently Raul Castro fears there may be some striking resemblances between pro-democracy movements in Iran and Cuba:

BEIJING -- The authoritarian governments of China, Cuba, Myanmar and Venezuela have been selectively censoring the news out of Iran, out of fear that history might repeat itself.

In 1988-90, amid a lesser global economic slump, pro-democracy protests that appeared to draw inspiration from one another broke out in Eastern Europe, Myanmar, China and elsewhere. Not all evolved into revolutions, but communist regimes fell in a broad swath of countries.

A similar infectiousness has shown up in acts of defiance by democracy advocates around the world this week.

In China, commentators tinted their blogs and Twitters green to show their support for Iranians disputing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election. The deaths of at least 20 people in violent clashes in Tehran have drawn comparisons online to "June 4," the date of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in Beijing in 1989.

In Cuba, President Raul Castro's government has imposed a blackout of news surrounding the Iranian elections. But developments are trickling through, anyway.

In Myanmar, the junta's mouthpiece, the New Light of Myanmar, has drowned out news from Tehran with articles on bombings in Iraq and Afghanistan. But some of the nearly 200 private journals have seized on the topic as a way to pass subversive messages to readers.

In Venezuela, where protests against President Hugo Chavez are common, Juan Mejia, 22, said he found the protests in Iran stirring.

"We believe that if the people of the world raise their voices loudly enough -- in Iran, as we do it here in Venezuela -- then surely we will have a better world."

-- The Washington Post

A Mother Pleads For Her Son's Life

Friday, June 26, 2009
Ariel Sigler Amaya, one of 75 Cuban pro-democracy leaders imprisoned during the repressive "Black Spring" crackdown of 2003, is gravely ill at the Ariza Hospital in Cienfuegos. His condition has seriously deteriorated in the last few months.

Ariel’s mother, Gloria Amaya, was able to see him briefly last week and was devastated by his frailty. Shortly after her visit, she recorded the following heartbreaking statement (the original recording can be heard in Spanish below):

“My son is dying... my son is dying... please don’t let my son die... Mommy, he says, there's no place left for them to inject me anymore…. he is a cadaver... I plead for justice… for justice to be made... because my son is going to die there, and before my son dies, I ask this government here, this government that does not deserve anything, to issue a parole to all the sick prisoners, because there are many who are sick, a lot of them... they say that there are none, that there are no political prisoners of conscience, that there are none, that all of them are common prisoners... that’s a huge lie, my God... let a human rights observer come here... and let them visit the jails, let them come to the hospitals... and let them see the way they are dying... not for lack of things that one brings to them, because we take whatever we can... but for lack of medical assistance, they have to give it to him, it's the way it should be, they have to give it to him because he is a human being... it is a human being, not an animal... they have my son in a hole, they have him in a part of the hospital, where they are not permitted to see anybody, not to talk to anybody, so no one can communicate with him... I was allowed to see him for only twenty minutes and they didn’t let me talk anything with him... this is criminal... it’s criminal what they are doing... my son, who had always been as strong as an oak, my son went in there strong, big and in good shape, and now he is weak, skinny, he is a skeleton... I implore you, all the community outside Cuba, to please do something for him... to President Barack Obama, to the European Union, to all the Congress people there... this government here is trying to finish them, they are being killed slowly... I am a mother who has been suffering since my son was imprisoned... he entered healthy and now look at the way my son is... my son is dying... my son is dying... don’t let my son die."


A Sobering Reminder

DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO THE CUBAN REGIME IN 2008
Not including disappearances or fatalities in exit attempts by sea

Despite persecution, fear of reprisal, and material/logistical limitations, Cuba's human rights' activists and independent journalists issue reports, from which the following information has been taken. The list below is not considered exhaustive, as reporting from many prisons and other locations inside Cuba is not possible and Cuba Archive may not have yet had access to some reports from the island.

Details and sources on all cases listed below are available at www.CubaArchive.org.

23 Deaths in Prison from Lack of Medical Care and/or Malnourishment

6 at Ariza Prison, Cienfuegos:

Leonardo Delgado Díaz, Age 62. 3/2/2008.
Yslandis Gómez Izquierdo, Age 23. 2008.
Jorge Luis Jiménez Andino, Age 35. 4/30/2008.
Genry Ordoñez Quiñones. January 2008.
Gustavo Pérez Rodríguez, Age 48. 5/14/2008.
Maximiliano Troncoso Aguilar, Age 54. 4/17/2008.

4 at Combinado Prison, Guantánamo:

Pascual Cobas Gaínza, Age 41. 2/21/2008.
Pascual Correa, Age 35. 2/23/2008.
Neuvis Ortíz Machado, Age 36. 4/19/2008.
Tomás Pantoja Rodríguez. 2/16/2008.

3 at Kilo 7 Prison, Camaguey:

Ismario Alvarez Andrade, Age 31. 1/28/2008.
Dennis Pupo Zamora, Age 31. 1/11/2008.
Rafael Sierra García, Age 41. 2/23/2008.

2 at Combinado del Este Prison, Havana:

Humberto Alvarez Chile, Age 40. 4/24/ 2008.
Edgar Wilson Bonbal Rojas, Age 23. April 2008.

2 at Valle Grande Prison, Havana:

Isaac Alcántara, Age 29. 5/29/2008.
Félix Oscar Campos Castañeda, Age 47. 3/252008.

6 at other prisons:

Luis González Días, 4/19/2008. Cuba Sí Prison, Holguín.
Alexander Márquez Consuegra, Age 38. 8/22/2008. Kilo 9 Prison, Camaguey.
Osmel Pedroso Pérez, Age 31. 4/9/2008. Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Avila.
Jorge Ramírez Montesino, Age 50. 3/22/2008. Kilo 5 Prison, Pinar del Río.
Israel Torres González, Age 37. 4/19/2008. Las Mangas Prison, Granma.
Andrés Vázquez Rodríguez, Age 57. 3/24/2008. Guanajay Prison, Havana.

11 Reported Suicides in Prison
*Some may be extrajudicial killings.

Fiss Casa Fábrega, Age 35. 6/5/2008. Cerámica Roja Prison, Camaguey.
Diosmel Castillo Martín, Age 25. 5/15/2008. Quivacán prison, Havana.
José Antonio Delgado Cabrera. 6/24/2008. Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Avila.
Florencio Deronselé, Age 36. 11/7/2008. Mar Verde Prison, Santiago de Cuba.
Leonardo García Rivero, Age 37. 6/24/2008. Kilo 8 Prison, Pinar del Río.
Juan Aparicio González, Age 60. 6/15/2008. Las Mangas prison, Granma.
Fernando Hurtado Carrillo, Age 47. 4/5/2008. Ariza Prison, Cienfuegos.
Juan Carlos Padilla Cabrera. 10/5/2008. Ariza Prison, Cienfuegos.
Eddy Pérez Caballero. 9/16/2008. Guamajal-Hombre Prison, Villa Clara.
Michael Santos Depara, Age 29. 4/1/2008. Las Mangas Prison, Granma.
Eliecer Vergara Pino. 1/30/2008. La Pendiente Prison, Villa Clara.

2 Presumed Extrajudicial Killings

Misael García Medina, Age 33. 9/17/2008, Combinado del Este prison, Havana. Shot to death in an escape attempt in the first perimeter surrounding the prison, where firing at escapees is forbidden.
Liborio Borroto Monroe, 11/19/2008. Jatibonico, Sancti Spiritus. Human rights activist run over by a horse-driven cart in a suspicious accident.

2 Deaths from Accidents Due to Negligence

Rey Ramón Gómez Alvarez, January 2008. Canaleta Prison, Ciego de Avila.
Gabriel Sánchez Sánchez, 9/13/2008. Kilo 7 Prison, Camaguey.

A Cuban Labor Activist's Courage

Letter to the Editor of The Washington Post:

The Post criticized President Obama for not inviting to the White House Bertha Antúnez, who accepted the Democracy Award, which honored five Cuban leaders of the pro-democracy movement who are imprisoned in Cuba ["A Dissident Deflected," editorial, June 25].

I share your outrage.

But the Post failed to mention a most courageous honoree, a leader of the Cuban independent labor movement, Iván Hernández Carrillo, who is serving a 25-year prison term since his arrest in 2003. Mr. Hernández Carrillo is imprisoned for the "crime" of organizing unions not beholden to the communist-controlled Cuban Labor Confederation.

Mr. Hernández Carrillo is one of seven other labor leaders imprisoned for the same "crime." The Post should have acknowledged that labor activists in Cuba also risk their lives for freedom.

JACK OTERO
Committee for Free Trade Unionism
Washington, D.C.

Stick to Miami Beach and Hawaii

Amid warnings that the United States loses tourism dollars to overseas rivals, U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota became the main sponsor of legislation to create a five-year national tourism promotion campaign. The U.S. is one of the few countries in the world that doesn't have these types of campaigns at the national level, which seek to lure tourists from all over the world to come visit the U.S. (and contribute to the U.S. economy), and to encourage U.S. tourists to discover the vast natural wonders and diversity of their own nation.

Ironically, Senator Dorgan is also the main sponsor of legislation seeking to authorize U.S. tourism travel to Cuba, with it repressive regime and apartheid beach resorts, where Cuban nationals are denied access.

Who knows? Senator Dorgan might even want the U.S. tourism campaign to encourage tourist travel to Castro's Cuba, instead of within the U.S.

Senator, please stick to Miami Beach and Hawaii. At least for the sake of the U.S. economy.

Concern Over Iran-Latin America Ties

Thursday, June 25, 2009
General Douglas Fraser, the new head of the US Southern Command, says Iran's heavy presence in Latin America is a "potential risk" to US interests in the region.

After taking office in 2005, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad expanded Iran's cooperation with many Latin American states, including Venezuela and Cuba.

Message to the U.S. Congress

Yesterday, five courageous Cuban pro-democracy leaders were recognized by the National Endowment for Democracy ("NED") with its 2009 Democracy Award. Please see this brief encapsulation from the Washington Post, which highlights their important message to the U.S. Congress:

Former House minority leader Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), chairman of the endowment, presented the award at a ceremony in the Cannon House Office Building attended by lawmakers. In the past, the group has given the prize to Chinese democracy activists, Afghan civic workers and such luminaries as Havel.

The presentation included a video about the five Cubans, in which one of them, labor activist Iván Hernández Carrillo, spoke in a phone call from prison. "Congressmen, I thank you for this recognition because it reminds us that we are not simply malcontents but fighters for democracy," he said.

[NED President Carl] Gershman said Carillo lost his once-a-month phone privilege for six months after the call.

Antúnez, who moved to Miami a year ago, said she was disappointed not to meet Obama. "What I'd like is to have the opportunity to tell the president about the situation of the country . . . and tell him of the hope the Cubans have placed in him," she said in an interview. She added that she hoped Obama would not alter the traditional U.S. hard line on Cuba, because "any change could give strength to the government."

Her brother, Jorge Luis García Pérez, is an Afro-Cuban dissident who was released from jail in 2007 after 17 years. His wife, Iris Pérez Aguilera, who is also black, leads a group called the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights.

The other two recipients were José Daniel Ferrer García, a youth activist from the Christian Liberation Movement; and Librado Linares García, founder of the Cuban Reflection Movement, a human rights organization. Both are in jail.

From the Washington Post Editorial Board

A Dissident Deflected
Why doesn't President Obama have time for Cuba's pro-democracy opposition?

FOR ITS winners, the National Endowment for Democracy's annual Democracy Award can mean a brief respite from a dangerous life as a dissident: a trip to Washington, attention from Congress and the media, and -- during the Bush and Clinton administrations -- an Oval Office meeting or statement of support from the president. No such luck for this year's honorees, who are five leaders of Cuba's pro-democracy movement. Two of them -- Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Jorge Luis García Pérez -- were detained in the Cuban town of Placetas on Tuesday when they joined a peaceful meeting of the Rosa Parks Women's Movement for Civil Rights. A third, Librado Linares García, who is already imprisoned, was moved to a punishment cell before yesterday's Capitol Hill award ceremony.

None were able to travel to Washington. They have been represented here by Bertha Antúnez, sister of Jorge Luis García Pérez. And Ms. Antúnez, an Afro-Cuban who was active in the Rosa Parks movement before she was forced into exile a year ago, has been snubbed by President Obama. Requests that he meet with her went unanswered. Only as the ceremony began did the White House issue a brief statement.

It's not that the president is too busy to concern himself with Latin American politics. The White House arranged for a Spanish journalist to ask a question at Tuesday's news conference; reporter Macarena Vidal pressed Mr. Obama on whether U.S. allies such as Chile and Colombia were doing enough to help with "less democratic countries." The president replied by heaping praise on visiting Chilean President Michele Bachelet, a socialist who has been promoting Cuba's readmission into the Organization of American States and who has gone out of her way to avoid offending Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. "Chile is leading by example," Mr. Obama said, adding that its good relationship with Washington despite political differences "points the way for other countries . . . where the democratic tradition is not as deeply embedded as we'd like it to be."

Message to Mr. Chávez and the Castro brothers: We can work with you. Message to Cuba's democratic opposition: We don't have time for you. "What I'd like is to have an opportunity to express to the president the situation of the island," Ms. Antúnez told us. "For the Cuban people it's enormously significant that Obama can become president" -- particularly, she said, because of his race and relative youth. "The Cuban people are hoping that he won't disappoint them."

Mr. Obama's hastily drafted statement -- issued after The Post inquired about his silence -- said he wished "to acknowledge and commend" the five dissidents "and all the brave men and women who are standing up for the right of the Cuban people to freely determine their country's future." He called for the release of the three now in prison. Will that satisfy Ms. Antúnez and the other opposition leaders? We suspect not. They, like the beleaguered pro-democracy movements of Venezuela and Nicaragua, are hoping that the American president will focus his policy on supporting them. Yet for now, Mr. Obama's diplomacy is clearly centered on their oppressors.

Obama Gives Nod to Pro-Democracy Leaders

Statement of President Obama on NED 2009 Democracy Award Recipients

I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and commend the National Endowment for Democracy's 2009 Democracy Award recipients Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, Librado Linares, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, and Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera and all the brave men and women who are standing up for the right of the Cuban people to freely determine their country's future. Like too many of their fellow citizens, four of these individuals have been unjustly jailed for defending the basic freedoms we all hold dear in the Americas. It is my sincere hope that all political prisoners who remain jailed, including three of today's award recipients, will be unconditionally released and allowed to fully participate in a democratic future in Cuba.

Trade With Castro, Not Democracies

Yesterday, U.S. Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois, who lavished praised on Cuban dictator Fidel Castro during an April trip to the island, sent the following "Dear Colleague" seeking cosponsors for his legislation to normalize trade relations with Cuba.

Please note that only two of the cosponsors below have supported trade agreements with democratic countries in Central America and the Caribbean, or even pending trade legislation with democratic Panama and Colombia.  However, with the Cuban totalitarian dictatorship, where only a state-owned monopoly - the Castro regime's Alimport - is authorized to transact international trade, and where the people have no political, civil or economic rights whatsoever, they want to trade away.

A striking irony.
 
From: The Honorable Bobby L. Rush

H.R. 2272 The United States-Cuba Trade Normalization Act of 2009
 
Current Co-Sponsors:

Reps.  N. Abercrombie, S. Bishop, R. Brady, M. Capuano, Y. Clarke,  W. Clay, E. Cleaver, J. Clyburn, S. Cohen, J. Conyers,  J. Costello, E. Cummings,  D. Davis, W. Delahunt, R. DeLauro, K. Ellison, S. Farr, C. Fattah, B. Filner, B. Frank, M. Fudge,  A. Green, M. Hinchey, M. Honda, E. Johnson, H. Johnson, M. Kaptur, D. Kildee,  C. Kilpatrick, D. Kucinich, B. Lee, J. Lewis, D. Loebsack, D. Matsui, J McDermott, G. Meeks, G. Moore, R. Neal,  S. Ortiz, D. Payne, C. Rangel, L. Richardson, J. Schakowsky, D. Scott, J. Serrano, B. Stupak, E. Towns, N. Velazquez, M. Waters, M. Watt, L. Woolsey
 
Dear Colleague:
 
Because of travel restrictions, many Americans have not been able to see the vast opportunities in Cuba, and what the nation has become. What I witnessed on my recent trip to Cuba has compelled me to call for a change in U.S trade policy towards Cuba.  The United States-Cuba Trade Normalization Act of 2009 is designed to open up markets for U.S. commerce while also helping to bring liberty and prosperity to the Cuban people.
 
Cuba has opened its doors to the entire world and the world has walked in.  All nations in the Western Hemisphere, except the United States, have resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba.  All of our economic competitors, including China, Brazil, Mexico, Japan, Canada, and the European Union are currently trading with Cuba. Cuba has also made it clear that the same doors are open to the U.S., and our policies should not prevent American companies from doing business with the Cuban people.  With the U.S. economy continuing to be a problem, the embargo should be lifted as a means of providing greater export opportunities.
 
Normalizing trade with Cuba is not without precedent and has already proven extremely beneficial to our economy.  In 2000, when I and other members of Congress voted to approve a modest opening of trade, exports to Cuba rose from $7 million in 2001 to $710 million in 2008.  These sales are an indicator of broader potential at a time when the U.S. economy is struggling. 
 
It is time to remove the counterproductive embargo on Cuba, a move that would not only benefit the struggling Cuban population and be of value to the United States, but also improve the tarnished image of the U.S. in Latin America. This bill will lift the embargo, travel and parcel restrictions, normalize trade relations and remove Cuba from the State Department's State Sponsors of Terrorism list
 
Please join me as a co-sponsor of The United States-Cuba Trade Normalization Act of 2009 to open up markets for U.S. commerce while also helping to bring liberty and prosperity to the Cuban people.  
 
Sincerely,
 
Bobby L. Rush
Member of Congress 

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 10

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Commentary by Mauricio Claver-Carone on Secure Freedom Radio:
 
"Iran and Cuba share various things in common - a military dictatorship hostile to the United States and the use of state terrorism to foment fear and repression amongst its citizens.

But most importantly, they share a struggle of the future versus the past, where young generations seeking freedom and democracy are courageously confronting geriatric regimes intent on absolute power
.

Before "Change" became the slogan of the Obama campaign in 2007, young Cubans were being beaten and arrested for wearing white wristbands with the word "Cambio" - Change - engraved on them.  In a December 2007 story, the Chicago Tribune dubbed these Cambio wristbands, "an accessory to counter-revolution."

The Cuban pro-democracy movement encompasses a wide array of individuals, from human rights activists, to independent journalists, to independent labor leaders.

This week on Capitol Hill, the National Endowment for Democracy will be honoring five of these individuals in absentia, including Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez", a 43 year old afro-Cuban leader, who spent more than 17 years as a prisoner of conscience; Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia, a youth activist and member of the Christian Liberation Movement; Librado Linares Garcia, founder of the Cuban Reflection Movement, who has been in prison since the 2003 repressive wave known as the Black Spring; Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, an independent labor leader also imprisoned since 2003; and Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera, founder of the Rosa Parks Women's Movement.

All five of these activists were, once again, arrested yesterday by Cuban State Security.

Of course, one cannot talk about Cuba's opposition without mentioning Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, who is currently spending 25 years in prison for his human rights advocacy.  Dr. Biscet has been recognized as a 21st century Nelson Mandela.

And finally, the Ladies in White movement of spouses, mothers, daughters and other relatives of Cuban political prisoners that demonstrate every Sunday after Mass in Havana's Santa Rita church.

All in all, demographics, courage and a moral compass are clearly at work against Cuba's dictatorship."

Quote of the Week


"I am the same age and color of Barack Obama. Yet look at how far he has risen, and I am here in Cuba unable to enjoy the opportunities of a free society."

- Jorge Olivera, Cuban independent journalist, Broadcasting Board of Governor's Annual Report

Democracy Awards Today

WASHINGTON, DC – The National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will honor the courage and determination of five Cuban democracy activists with the presentation of its annual Democracy Award at a Capitol Hill ceremony and reception on Wednesday, June 24, 2009. Confirmed speakers include NED Chairman Richard Gephardt; Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman (D-CA); Ranking Foreign Affairs member Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL); Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL); NED Board member Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY); Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL); and Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

“The five brave Cubans we honor this year represent the future of their country,” said NED Chairman Richard Gephardt. “All of them have endured significant personal hardship for nothing more than standing up for basic rights and freedoms. With this award, we hope to express our solidarity with their struggle, and let them know that we share their dream of a free and democratic Cuba.

The honorees are Jorge Luis Garcia Pérez, (aka “Antúnez”), José Daniel Ferrer García, Librado Linares García, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, and Iris Tamara Perez Aguilera. All five are relatively young, in their 30s and 40s, three are Afro-Cuban, one is a Christian Democrat and another is a Social Democrat, one is a trade unionist and another is a women’s leader. All of them espouse the philosophy of non-violent resistance and activism and, together, the five represent a broad spectrum of opinion and activism. García, Linares and Carrillo are in prison; Antúnez was released in 2007 after 17 years in Cuban jails. Antúnez and Aguilera are living under virtual house arrest since beginning a hunger strike in March of this year.

The award presentation and reception will take place in the Caucus Room of the Cannon House Office Building from 5:30 – 7:00 pm.

Jorge Luis Garcia Pérez (“Antúnez”) — A 43-year old leader of Cuba’s civic resistance movement who served more than 17 years in prison, having been released in 2007. During that period, his fellow inmates nicknamed him “the black diamond” because of his courage and unbreakable spirit. In “A Word from the Opposition” in the January, 2009 issue of the Journal of Democracy, Antúnez highlighted the Movement’s adherence to the principles of non-violent resistance as set forth by Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King. He is married to Iris Tamara Perez Aguilar, another honoree.

José Daniel Ferrer García is a youth activist and member of the Christian Liberation Movement who was instrumental in gathering hundreds of signatures and mobilizing people in poor, marginal neighborhoods in support of the Varela Project. García organized meetings with neighbors throughout the eastern provinces, turning them into informal town hall meetings where grievances were expressed and the desire for change articulated. He received one of the highest prison sentences of the group of dissidents arrested on March 18, 2003. He has been a leader of the resistance of political prisoners against the abuses of the regime from within prison walls.

Librado Linares García is a young intellectual and founder of the Cuban Reflection Movement. Linares organized independent libraries, soup kitchens for the poor, workshops among various dissident groups, as well as forums and conferences for citizens living in the central region of Cuba. He developed a comprehensive multi-tiered strategy of resistance against the regime, aimed at organizing and mobilizing Cuban civil society through non violent means. One of the pro-democracy leaders arrested on March 18, 2003, Linares has been suffering a progressive loss of eyesight during his imprisonment.

Ivan Hernandez Carrillo is an independent labor activist prior to his imprisonment in March, 2003, in his mid-30s and black, Carillo is widely regarded as one of the key youth leaders of the civic opposition. He is from Matanzas province, which, together with Villa Clara province, forms the geographical core of the Cuban resistance. Carillo has continued the resistance struggle during his incarceration.

Iris Tamara Pérez Aguilera is founder and President of the Rosa Parks Women’s Movement, whose objectives are to struggle against human rights violations. Born in 1975 in Sancti Spiritus province in central Cuba, she entered the opposition movement in 1999, when her brother, Mario Pérez Aguilera, was imprisoned at Nieves Morejón prison. Ms. Aguilera is married to Jorge Luis Garcia Perez (“Antunez”).

The "Inflexibility" of Dissidents

Tuesday, June 23, 2009
The siren call for a "new approach" in dealing with the Burmese junta rang loudly in the Wall Street Journal's weekend edition. One can almost guess the theme of the article entitled, "In Myanmar, Two Hidden Worlds. Amid privations, its regime prospers by trading with China and India" -- that Western sanctions towards the Burmese junta are ineffective because the dictatorship is being provided financial relief by the two Asian nations.

Substitute China and India for Venezuela and Spain, and it's all-too-eerily familiar to the Cuba debate.

Nonetheless, here's the line that was truly striking:

"Other [advocates of a "new approach"] go so far as to propose that the West should accept a diminished role for Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar's leading opposition figure. The Nobel laureate is arguably the world's most revered prisoner of conscience since Nelson Mandela, but she has drawn criticism for her inflexibility in dealing with the regime."

It's fascinating how opposition leaders that support sanctions towards their oppressors are so easily labeled "inflexible." Fortunately, there's an inspiring trend that finds these "inflexible" opponents on the right side of history.

From the 19th century abolitionist movement to end slavery:

"With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plea; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost."

-William Lloyd Garrison, U.S. abolitionist and editor of "The Liberator"

To the 20th century Soviet opposition during the Cold War:

"We are slaves there from birth, but we are striving for freedom. You, however, were born free. If so, then, why do you help our slave owners?"

- Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Soviet political prisoner and author of "The Gulag Archipelago"

To the 21st century Cuban civil society:

"I do not support, nor will I ever support, any policy of dialogue with the Castro's dictatorship because I firmly believe that the only way to achieve democracy in Cuba is through civil disobedience and a campaign of no cooperation."

- Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," Cuban pro-democracy leader and political prisoner (17 years and 38 days)

Target: Inter-American Development Bank

Former Mexican Foreign Minister Jorge Castaneda makes two important observations following last month's confrontation at the OAS Ministerial over Cuba's potential readmission to the regional body:
 
"The first consideration involves the ALBA countries' [Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, etc.] conduct of foreign policy. Given that the smaller countries do not act independently of Venezuela, and that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez does not act without Cuba's guidance on weighty matters such as these, it is now clear that the Cubans and their allies will cut U.S. President Barack Obama no slack on Latin American issues.

The second consideration is that this behavior will continue. The reason seems clear enough: Cuba needs international aid desperately, and there are not too many places where it can find it. Hopes that Brazil and China would provide cash to Cuba have been dashed by the international financial crisis and geopolitics.
 
And Chavez, despite the recent increase in oil prices, can no longer afford to subsidize Cuba as he did during the boom years. So it seems that the Cubans are hoping to find resources elsewhere, and the only possibility, as remote as it seems, is the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)."
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: For Cuba to obtain a "bailout" from the IDB, it would essentially need U.S. support, which is not legally feasible without the U.S. Congress lifting sanctions towards the Castro regime.

The Cost of Disillusionment

Here's the result of decades of emigration amongst Cuba's younger generations, as the geriatric Castro regime insists on absolute power. Fortunately, this trend can change overnight with the demise of the dictatorship and the dream of a better tomorrow.

Cuba’s Population to Fall Below 11 Million by 2032

HAVANA – EFE, Cuba, which ended 2008 with 11.24 million people, will see its population drop by 100,000 by 2025 and go below 11 million in 2032, state media reported Monday, citing a new study.

A Spanish Tourist in Havana

Excerpt from "A Day in the Real Cuba" by Isane Aparicio Bust:

"To arrive in Old Havana was like arriving in a theme park.  Majestic homes, clean streets, and police surveillance intent on limiting contact between Cubans and tourists. The Cuban people are Caribbean victims of 21st century apartheid.

Hotels for tourists, buses for tourists, stores for tourists.  A separate world, where Cubans are denied access.  And it's not even a matter of purchasing power.  As reprehensible as classism is, it's even worse.  Some Cubans whom we asked about this segregation tried to justify the tourist privileges by claiming that 'Cubans nag,' 'there are people that harass tourists so it's better to limit access to them.' Is this what European tourists then interpret as hospitality and great service during their trips to Cuba?  That a whole nation is forced to treat the white visitor with reverence?"

The Future Always Wins

In this weekend's Wall Street Journal, former Presidential speechwriter Peggy Noonan pointedly commented on Iran:

"Something has been unleashed, and it won't be going away. A thugocracy has been revealed as lacking the support and respect of a considerable portion of its people, and that portion is not solely the most sophisticated and educated but, far more significantly, the young. Half the people in Iran are under 27. When the young rise against the old, the future rises against the past. In that contest, the future always wins. The question is timing: soon or some years from now?"

Sound familiar?

The Castro's Cuba is a Pariah

Monday, June 22, 2009
By Jerry Brewer

A quintessential theme, which is not necessarily popular by a majority, is the restoration of relations and lifting of the described embargo of Cuba by the United States. Acquiescing to a form of romanticism with the Cuba of the 1950s and former President Fidel Castro's despotic and ideological influence throughout Latin America is irresponsible rhetoric. His four-decade rule has brought death and misery throughout Cuba and Latin America.

What is the real issue that democracies of the world should embrace as they look to the future of Cuba and its citizens? Fidel Castro's venomous hatred for the United States started long before he came into power. Castro's establishment of a Communist state came quickly with his intervention of personal property and businesses. Cuba's firing squads were quick to execute dissidents as well as U.S. citizens on the Cuban homeland.

Protagonists for the end of the Cuban embargo cite the ending of the Cold War of the past, as well as a no longer need to protect the U.S. from Communism. Is Fidel Castro's past relevant to today?

It is important that we focus on past and current facts to proactively circumvent any memory recall deficiencies that may exist on these critical decisions. Too, those that have fallen in defense of homeland freedoms in Cuba, and those who fled the island, as well as those that faced ruthless and bloody confrontations against Cuban insurgency on other foreign land, deserve consideration and respect.

Fidel Castro has stated "America is weak and will be brought to its knees." Why has the U.S. become the scapegoat for the misery of the Cuban people who cry out to the world for the freedoms and the rule of law that they deserve from their government and leaders?

U.S. President Barack Obama stated recently that we would "extend a hand to the Cuban people in support of their desire to determine their own future."

Support for Cuba must circumvent mere opinion. World support will come to Cuba's doorstep with action and not mere words by Cuba's ruling government. The fundamental issue is for Cuban leaders to allow citizens the ability to attain the freedoms they deserve and the ability to join those where the rule of law can prevail.

What have Cuban rulers recently done to demonstrate to the world their sincere desires to provide for citizens?

Fidel Castro retained his post as "First Secretary" of the Communist Party of Cuba. President Raul Castro has claimed "Second Secretary." The Cuban Communist Party (PCC) is the highest rule of decision-making and controls the election of the members who serve the Central Committee.

Communist ideology and action by Fidel Castro has graphically meant death and destruction. Cuba has trained thousands of Communist guerrillas and terrorists. In fact, ties to rogue states such as North Korea and Iran continue today. Cuba sponsored terrorism and subversion in Africa and the Middle East, among other regions. Prior to Castro's illness, his travel destinations included Syria, Libya and Iran.

Miami has seen a violent and pervasive anti-Castro struggle for decades. The newer generations of Cubans and Cuban Americans voice their vociferous recriminations to the Cuban leadership model demanding peace, freedom, technology, and other Western comforts.

President Raul Castro should unequivocally and publicly renounce terrorism and revolutionary violence, and extend new freedoms for his people before a world audience. Generations of Cubans would welcome sweeping changes, both socially and economically, and the restoration of liberties. This in graphic contrast to Cuba's past in which opponents were imprisoned and executed. Castro's rule began with over 700,000 citizens fleeing the island, mostly to the U.S. The U.S. "weakness" apparently only demonstrated by its heart and soul.

Cuba chose communist bloc aid early. This mistake evident with the collapse and breakup of the former Soviet Union in 1991. Stiffer trade sanctions against Cuba by the U.S. followed in 1992, and again in 1996, with Cuba's aggression in Latin America and Angola from the decades of the 1980s and 1970s. The threat to the U.S. by Cuba allowing Soviet nuclear weapons on its soil in 1962 was a grim reminder of Cuba's leadership ideology.

Lift the embargo and allow trade normalization with Cuba?

Communist rule unscrupulously forced horrific sacrifices upon the Cuban people. No one must encourage others to emulate the Cuban Revolution. The suffering Cuban population demands freedom and world support. Recent Cuban espionage incidents against the U.S. demonstrate the ruling party's motives. Let us help Cubans to define their destiny and help themselves to establish a democracy.

Jerry Brewer is CEO of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global risk mitigation firm.

We Are All Neda Soltan




Weapons of State Terrorism

Meet Iran's Basij militia:

And Cuba's Brigadas de Respuesta Rapida (BRR):

Why do tyrants fear the free will of their nation's citizenry?

The "Lucrative" Cuban Market

Is this the great foreign market that U.S. Senator Max Baucus of Montana and U.S. Congressman Charlie Rangel of New York keep talking about, and that the National Foreign Trade Council and American Farm Bureau insist the U.S. in missing out on?

According to Spain's El Pais:

"Things are worse than ever," said a foreign investor that has transacted business in Cuba for years. Like many of his colleagues, [the foreign businessman] complains that he's had hundred of thousands of dollars frozen in his bank account in Cuba. "Since January, I've been unable to transfer a single dollar. There's just no money," he said. This malaise is quickly spreading [amongst foreign businessmen on the island] and is beginning to have consequences. "Some businessmen have begun to limit the delivery of products as long as they are unable to repatriate their earnings."

The Complicity of Business Interests

It's no secret that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Foreign Trade Council, the American Farm Bureau and other trade groups lobby to do business with the Castro regime based on the incentive of profit.

Yet it's insulting when they hypocritically claim that lifting trade and travel sanctions towards the totalitarian Castro regime would serve as a "democratizing force."

The fact remains that similar business interests led the silent complicity of the international community during the brutal suppression of Chinese activists in Tiananmen square in 1989, which practically disseminated China's pro-democracy movement to this day.

Twenty years later, the same is happening in Iran. Does anyone doubt that the same would happen to Cuba's civil society, if U.S. policy followed the desires of these trade groups?

The Wall Street Journal reports:

While young Iranians take to the streets calling for change, many European companies active in Iran are quietly hoping the country resolves the crisis soon.

Investors say their greatest fear is that neither the Iranian authorities nor the opposition back down over the contested June 12 election, potentially leading to a violent suppression of protests -- and more pressure on foreign businesses to stop trading with Iran.

Most of these companies, aware that their investments in Iran are politically contentious, decline to talk openly about Iranian politics.

The Carriage In Front of the Horse

Cuba is a totalitarian regime, which represses the most fundamental human, civil, political and economic rights of its citizens; it is the only remaining dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere; it has been ruled by the same family for 50 years; it is responsible for the death of 10 percent of its population through execution, imprisonment or attempting to escape the island by sea; and has another 10 percent of its population in exile.

The United States is a representative democracy, which freely elects its President every four years and Congress every two years; it has a Constitution that fully protects its citizen's fundamental human, civil and political rights; it has an independent judiciary; and it represents one of the freest -- and most prosperous -- economies in the world.

Yet, somehow, the totalitarian regime believes the multiparty democracy needs to make more "gestures."

The AP reports:

HAVANA - Raul Castro dismissed Barack Obama's policy changes toward Cuba as "achieving only the minimum," and said Wednesday that it is up to the U.S. - not Cuba - to do more to improve relations.

The Cuban president suggested the communist government is not willing to appease Washington by embracing small political and social reforms on the island, saying in a speech before an international gathering of government ministers that "it is not Cuba who has to make gestures."

Will "Daytrips" Bring Freedom to Cuba?

Sunday, June 21, 2009
Foreign tourists that visit Cuba typically stay at segregated beach resorts, where Cuban nationals are denied access. Yet those unaware of Cuba's reality argue that authorizing U.S. tourism to the island will allow increased engagement with the Cuban people, even though interaction between Cubans and foreigners are sanctionable by the Castro regime's Orwellian laws.

So how will foreign tourists interact with the Cuban people?

Apparently through "daytrips" organized by the authorities.

According to the Ottawa Citizen:

Many beach resorts organize daytrips to Havana, shuttling visitors into the historic centre for a few hours of sightseeing in a city that is often described as a time capsule. Antique Fords and Soviet-era cars provide a colourful contrast to crumbling colonial architecture, while large murals and posters on city walls and along major roads promote pro-communist slogans.