Iran Human-Rights Legislation

Saturday, February 13, 2010
According to The Hill:

A group of bipartisan senators announced legislation Thursday aimed at imposing human-rights sanctions on Iran.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), GOP Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.), Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) introduced a two-part bill aimed at punishing Iran's regime for brutal crackdowns on dissidents, political opponents and journalists.

The bill has two parts. First, it would require President Barack Obama to compile a public list of individuals in Iran who are responsible for human-rights violations against Iranian citizens and their families anywhere in the world. Second, the bill would block U.S. visas and freeze any U.S. assets belonging to those individuals.

Meanwhile -- following the lead of Castro's Cuba -- the Iranian regime is now pursuing a seat on the tragically ironic and increasingly irrelevant U.N. Human Rights Council.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 16

Friday, February 12, 2010
According to the Miami Herald:

[U.S. Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart's] decision to leave office at the end of the year comes as advocates for easing the Cuban embargo suggest they have their best shot at success in years. But observers said Thursday that although Diaz-Balart's forceful, decades-long advocacy of a hard line against Cuba will be difficult to match, his efforts will endure.

"Lincoln is the senior statesman, he helped create the policy, but there are a lot of people working to keep it,'" said Mauricio Claver-Carone, director of a leading pro-embargo lobby, the U.S. Cuba Democracy political action committee. "You can't minimize what a vocal, important figure he is in regards to U.S.-Cuba policy, but the policy will not retire with him."

And Claver-Carone noted that unlike in Cuba -- where Fidel and Raul Castro have kept a tight rein on power for more than five decades -- Diaz-Balart's retirement "opens the door for a new generation of Cuban Americans."

Venecuba & State Sponsors of Terrorism

The Cuba section of the State Department's most recent (2008) report on "state-sponsors of terrorism" begins with the following assessment:

"Although Cuba no longer actively supports armed struggle in Latin America and other parts of the world, the Cuban government continued to provide safe haven to several terrorists."

We concur with the second part of this assessment regarding the issue of safe haven, but it looks like the first part merits greater scrutiny (and revision) this year.

From The Economist:

"Venecuba," a single nation

Hugo Chávez, as he drafts in ever more Cuban aides to shore up his regime, is fulfilling a longstanding dream of Fidel Castro's

IN A small fishing village on the Caribbean coast of Venezuela stands a plinth. Unveiled by government officials in 2006, it pays homage to the Cuban guerrillas sent by Fidel Castro in the 1960s to help subvert Venezuela's then recently restored democracy. Almost entirely bereft of popular support, the guerrilla campaign flopped. But four decades later, and after a decade of rule by Hugo Chávez, Cuba's communist regime seems finally to have achieved its goal of invading oil-rich Venezuela—this time without firing a shot.

Earlier this month Ramiro Valdés, a veteran revolutionary who ranks number three in Cuba's ruling hierarchy and was twice its interior minister, arrived in Caracas, apparently for a long stay. Officially, Mr Valdés has come to head a commission set up by Mr Chávez to resolve Venezuela's acute electricity shortage. But he lacks expertise in this field, and Cuba is famous for 12-hour blackouts. Some members of Venezuela's opposition reckon that Mr Valdés, whose responsibilities at home include policing Cubans' access to the internet, has come to help Mr Chávez step up repression ahead of a legislative election in September.

Others believe he was sent to assess the gravity of the situation facing the Castro brothers' most important ally (Cuba depends on Mr Chávez for subsidized oil). He has been seen in meetings with Venezuelan military commanders.

Although by far the most senior, Mr Valdés is only one among many Cubans who have been deployed by Mr Chávez under bilateral agreements that took shape in 2003. As well as thousands of doctors staffing a community-health program, they include people who are helping to run Venezuela's ports, telecommunications, police training, the issuing of identity documents and the business registry.

In 2005 Venezuela's government gave Cuba a contract to modernize its identity-card system. Since then, Cuban officials have been spotted in agencies such as immigration and passport control. A group of Cubans who recently fled Venezuela told a newspaper in Miami that they had bribed a Cuban official working in passport control at Caracas airport.

In some ministries, such as health and agriculture, Cuban advisers appear to wield more power than Venezuelan officials. The health ministry is often unable to provide statistics—on primary health-care or epidemiology for instance—because the information is sent back to Havana instead. Mr Chávez seemed to acknowledge this last year when, by his own account, he learned that thousands of primary health-care posts had been shut down only when Mr Castro told him so.

Coffee-growers complain that in meetings with the government it is Bárbara Castillo, a former Cuban trade minister, who calls the shots. Ms Castillo, who was formally seconded to Venezuela four years ago, refuses requests for interviews.

Trade unions, particularly in the oil and construction industries, have complained of ill-treatment by the Cubans. No unions are allowed on Cuban-run building sites. In September last year Froilán Barrios of the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, which opposes the government, said that "oil and petrochemicals are completely penetrated by Cuban G2," the Castros' fearsomely efficient intelligence service. Oil workers planning a strike said they had been threatened by Cuban officials.

The new national police force and the army have both adopted policies inspired by Cuba. The chief adviser to the national police-training academy is a Cuban, and Venezuela's defense doctrine is based on Cuba's "war of all the people". Foreign officials who watch Venezuela closely say that Cuban agents occupy key posts in Venezuela's military intelligence agency, but these claims are impossible to verify.

Mr Chávez portrays Cuban help as socialist solidarity in the struggle against "the empire," as he calls the United States. When he was visiting Cuba in 2005 Fidel Castro said publicly to him that their two countries were "a single nation". "With one flag," added Mr Chávez, to which Mr Castro replied, "We are Venecubans." These views are not shared by Venezuelans. In a recent poll 85% of respondents said they did not want their country to become like Cuba. Perhaps Mr Valdés will include that in his assessment.

The Highway to Freedom

Thursday, February 11, 2010
World leaders should heed Clinton's call and defend Internet freedom

By Carlos M. Gutierrez

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton deserved a loud and prolonged round of applause for her staunch defense of Internet freedom at this city's Newseum earlier this month.

Her observations were right on target and particularly timely, coming as they did a few days after Google threatened to withdraw from the booming Chinese market after discovering that hackers there had launched computer attacks on human rights activists across the globe.

Of course, China is not the only country where the convergence of human rights and the Internet results in conflict. Far too many governments are seeking to restrict and even shut down the Internet, deeming it a threat to their own power and survival.

Award-winning Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez — named one of the world's 100 most influential people in 2008, by Time magazine — has had to sneak into Internet cafes in hotels reserved for foreigners in order to post her entries or send them to friends abroad, who post on her behalf. Facing constant harassment by officials, Sanchez has been detained and her husband has been brutally beaten.

American Alan P. Gross, a consultant for Development Alternatives Inc., was detained in Cuba last month and accused of threatening Cuban national security after traveling to the country to assist Jewish nonprofits in setting up Internet access for the country's Jewish community. The American government should speak out against Gross's continued imprisonment and defend the rights of this U.S. citizen.

In the last year alone, Tunisia and Uzbekistan have stepped up their censorship of the Internet. Vietnam recently denied its citizens access to a popular social networking site. Only a few weeks ago, Egypt arrested and detained 30 activists and bloggers who shared opinions that dissented from official state policy.

The latest development in China prompted Google to announce it would shut down its Chinese search engine if Beijing continued to insist on the right to track and censor Internet users. It is increasingly clear that over the long term, economies will only continue to flourish in countries open to ideas from thought leaders in all nations — and also where investors are protected from hackers.

It is critical that investors feel their information is secure. The uncovering of the e-mail accounts of those Chinese activists was only one part of a coordinated hacking campaign that targeted more than 30 other companies, including Adobe, Northrop Grumman and Dow Chemical.

Internet hacking is also an economic issue. If companies feel their proprietary information is not safe, they will not invest. If companies are fearful that they are unable to protect their new ideas, they may be hesitant to innovate at all. Intellectual property, corporate strategies and trade secrets must remain secure. Governments, working together, must develop and implement solutions that reduce the risk of increasingly sophisticated abuses and attacks.

As Secretary Clinton pointed out in her speech, the spread of the Internet has created "a new nervous system" for our planet. An unfettered Internet can be the world's highway to freedom, but we must also ensure the Internet does not put private information at undue risk.

A tricky balance, indeed, but, when achieved, could help lead the world from these troubled times into a new age of peace and prosperity.

Carlos Gutierrez is a former U.S. Secretary of Commerce and CEO of the Kellogg Co. He now heads Global Political Strategies, an international strategic consulting service.

© McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Google: Target of Tyrants

First, Google takes on China.

Now, Iran takes on Google.

Meanwhile, Castro takes notes.

According to the Wall Street Journal:

Iran to Suspend Google's Email

Iran's telecommunications agency announced what it described as a permanent suspension of Google Inc.'s email services, saying a national email service for Iranian citizens would soon be rolled out.

The move marks another effort by the regime to close the gap with its opposition in controlling Iranian cyberspace, according to Internet security experts. The government has a tight grip over old media—television, radio and newspapers—but learned during the unrest following the contested election last June that the opposition and its supporters dominated new media, including social networking Web sites like Twitter and Facebook.

The Iranian regime has been intensifying a crackdown on supporters and leaders of Iran's opposition. Part of the government's efforts have involved tracking the Facebook, Twitter and YouTube activity of Iranians around the world, and identifying them at opposition protests abroad, say former Iranian lawmakers and former members of Iran's elite security force.

Statement by Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Statement by Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart

Today I am announcing that I will not seek a tenth term in the United States Congress this November.

These 24 years in public office, 6 in the Florida Legislature and 18 in Congress, have constituted an extraordinary honor for me, and from the bottom of my heart I thank this community for having allowed me the privilege of fighting for the most noble of causes.

As a Senior Member of the House Rules Committee I was able to take to the floor of the House for passage the extension of the Voting Rights Act for 25 years, and the authorization for our military action in Afghanistan against those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Thank you for having granted me the responsibility of public office to fight for those in need, by way of the authorship of legislation such as the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act or co-authorship of the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act, or the reinstitution of disability benefits and Medicaid to legal immigrants, or the inclusion of legal immigrants in the SCHIP program.

Thank you for having granted me the ability to fight for and obtain critical help for fundamental institutions in our community, such as the Ryder Trauma Center and other key programs at Jackson Memorial/UM, Centro Mater, the League Against Cancer, the United States Southern Command, Miami International Airport, and our great institutions of higher learning such at St. Thomas, Barry, Florida International, Miami-Dade College and the University of Miami.

I helped to form the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute, I have defended the Rule of Law, fought injustice, and was able to contribute to the deepening of relations between the United States and extraordinary friends of this nation throughout the world.

And individually, my exceptional staff (to whom I will be eternally grateful) and I have been able to help tens of thousands of men, women and children with critically important matters.  I have always known and have never forgotten that the public good is comprised of many good individual human beings.

All this and so much more we have been able to accomplish because this community has allowed me to fight for it; though I recognize, and have often felt, as in the words of Anwar el-Sadat, that "there is an external power which determines the course of human events and directs it beyond our control.  It is often absurd to say one has done this or that."

One of the achievements of which I am most proud was the codification, the writing into U.S. law, of the U.S. embargo on the Castro dictatorship, and the law's requirement that before any U.S. President can lift the embargo, all political prisoners must be freed, all political parties, labor unions and the press must be legalized, and free multiparty elections must be scheduled in Cuba.

The reason why the world today debates the issue of Cuba (in contrast to the also condemnable internal situations in the other totalitarian States), and that the names of Cuba's heroes and future leaders are known, like Biscet, Antunez, and so many other men and women, is because the U.S. embargo exists, and will continue to exist until those three fundamental conditions are met.
       
I am convinced that in the upcoming chapter of the struggle, I can be more useful to the inevitable change that will soon come to Cuba, to Cuba's freedom, as a private citizen dedicated to helping the heroes within Cuba and to the study and propagation of the ideas and ideals of "The White Rose," which was founded by my father, Rafael Diaz-Balart, in January, 1959.

Its important to recognize that the bipartisan team working for Cuba's freedom from within the U.S. Congress, is fully in place and functioning more effectively than ever, led by my dear colleagues Mario, Ileana, Bob and Albio, with the admirable and continuous support of this community.

There is much important work to be done this year in Washington.  The U.S. economy is dangerously close to the catastrophic precipice of uncontrollable debt.  We must urgently alter Washington's fiscal course before the American middle class as we know it is relegated to the history books.

I will leave the U.S. Congress when the term for which I was elected expires in January 2011 and return to the practice of law with a sense of duty fulfilled, with infinite love and admiration for the most generous and noble nation in history, the United States of America, and with profound gratitude to Cristina and my sons, to my mother, my three brothers and the rest of my family, to Ana Carbonell and all my wonderful staff, to my friends, supporters and my constituents, for having allowed me the honor of service by way of this important public office.

As I leave public office and begin the next phase of the fight without rest, I will continue to serve, for service is a calling, a vocation, which men and women in a free society can also exercise as private citizens, a calling which I will always fulfill. 

"There is a time for every event under heaven."

Thank you, my friends.  Thank you very much. 

Free Iran ایران آزاد

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Iranian people as they courageously protest the 31st anniversary of the brutal dictatorship that oppresses them.

Lifestyles of the Rich and Repressive

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Andrew McLeod of the Scottish-based web newspaper, Caledonian Mercury, has a great post on the "pesky inconvenience" that human rights pose to foreign business interests in repressive regimes:

Human rights and wrongs overlooked in business dealings with China

It may be time for "the West" to start reassessing its rather fawning relationship with China – but don't hold your breath. Human rights issues certainly play a part in how some of us view China but big business tends to get in the way when we want to do something about it.

On Tuesday Chinese activist Tan Zuoren, 55, was handed a five-year prison sentence, ostensibly for writing online articles critical of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. His lawyer, however, says the real motive behind Tan's prosecution was his investigation into the collapse of school buildings in the devastating Sichuan earthquake of 2008 in which around 80,000 people died.

The entire article can be read here, including the following important observation:

Meanwhile, we in the West are treated to TV tours of, say, the booming capitalist mega-city of Shanghai by the likes of journo/celebs like Piers Morgan, where we get to rub shoulders with the Chinese – mainly the mega-rich.

It makes one wonder why Cuba gets such a bad press: perhaps it will be a different story once the winds of capitalism are blowing free through the streets of Havana as they do in Shanghai.



That would be music to the Castro regime's ears:

"Lifestyles of the Rich and Repressive" featuring the mega-rich Fidel and Raul Castro, Raul's son-in-law (and GAESA CEO), Col. Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez Callejas and their celebrity friends.

With absolute impunity.

Change Needed at the OAS

From The Washington Post Editorial Board:

Mr. Obama should press for change at the OAS

SINCE ITS founding in 1948, the Organization of American States has defined its two top purposes as "to strengthen peace and security" and "to consolidate and promote representative democracy." On the second count, it is failing.

Despite the adoption in 2001 of a "democracy charter," the OAS has done little to stem what has been a steady erosion of free elections, free press and free assembly in Latin America during the past five years. When Honduras's president was arrested and dispatched to exile by the military last year, the organization was aggressive but clumsy -- and ended up making a democratic outcome harder to achieve. In the case of countries where democracy has been systematically dismantled by a new generation of authoritarian leaders, including Venezuela and Nicaragua, the OAS has failed to act at all.

The embodiment of this dysfunction has been OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza. A Chilean socialist, Mr. Insulza has unabashedly catered to the region's left-wing leaders -- which has frequently meant ignoring the democratic charter. Last year, he pushed for the lifting of Cuba's ban from the OAS, even though there has been no liberalization of the Castro dictatorship. When Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez launched a campaign against elected leaders of his opposition, stripping them of power and launching criminal investigations, Mr. Insulza refused to intervene, claiming the OAS "cannot be involved in issues of internal order of member states." Yet when leftist Honduran President Manuel Zelaya tried to change his own country's internal order by illegally promoting a constitutional referendum, Mr. Insulza supported him, even offering to dispatch observers.

Now Mr. Insulza is up for reelection; a vote is scheduled for late next month. The United States, which supplies 60 percent of the funding for the OAS's general secretariat -- $47 million in 2009 -- ought to have a prime interest in replacing him with someone who will defend democracy. Yet the Obama administration is paralyzed: It has yet to make a decision about whether to support a new term for Mr. Insulza. Partly because of that waffling, no alternative candidate has emerged.

There is some reason for this. Five years ago, an effort by the Bush administration to promote a couple of friendly candidates backfired, and a U.S.-backed nominee this year would surely trigger pushback by Mr. Chávez and his allies, and by center-left governments such as Brazil. But the potential resistance to Mr. Insulza is growing. Panama, Colombia, Canada and Mexico could be enlisted in the search for an alternative. Even Chile's new center-right president has so far declined to endorse his compatriot.

At a minimum, the administration should embrace the recommendation of a recent Senate report on the OAS drawn up by the staff of Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.). It calls for the OAS permanent council to require that Mr. Insulza make a presentation about his proposals and priorities for a second term, and for any other candidate who steps forward to offer such a presentation as well.

The United States should make clear that it will not support any secretary general whose platform on democracy issues is inadequate. Congress should meanwhile consider whether the United States should continue to provide the bulk of the funding for the OAS when it fails to live by its own charter.

A "Special" Police Operation

Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Last week, the BBC's correspondent in Havana, Fernando Ravsberg, was confronted by Castro's "special police" for having a conversation with a Cuban journalism student.

That's right -- for a simple conversation.

He wrote about this experience in a post (in Spanish), which we've partially translated:

Careful with the Waiters

It has been an exciting week. I was the subject of a "special police" operation upon leaving the bar of the Hotel St. John in the Vedado neighborhood. My "crime" was having a cup of coffee and talking to a journalism student, whom I was helping with his graduate thesis.

At the bar, I had noticed that the waiter kept walking by our table excessively, but I thought he was simply bored due to lack of clients. However, at one point I saw him whispering to the receptionist as they glared at us from the corner of their eyes.

The fact is that upon leaving, we were confronted by two agents of the "special police" (they wouldn't tell me what they "specialized" in). With an angry look, they asked us for our documents and refused to tell us why they were taking such measures.

After elaborating on the details of the harassment, Ravsberg ironically concluded:

The funny thing is that one of the questions the student had previously asked me was whether foreign journalists had difficulties in approaching Cubans, to which I answered "no." I never thought I'd be contradicted so quickly.

A North Korean Coincidence?

Last Friday, the Washington Post reported,

"North Korea said Friday it will free an American missionary who entered the country on Christmas Day to protest human rights abuses.

State media in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital, said the government decided to 'leniently forgive' Robert Park, 28, of Tucson, Ariz., because of his 'sincere repentance of his wrong doings.' North Korea did not say when it would release Park.

Park walked from China into North Korea across the frozen Tumen River carrying letters calling on leader Kim Jong Il to step down and to close the country's gulag of labor camps for political prisoners."

Just two days before, Reuters had reported,

"President Barack Obama said Wednesday he had decided not to reinstate nuclear-armed North Korea to a list of countries that the United States considers state sponsors of terrorism.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last June had raised the possibility of returning North Korea to the list in reaction to recent nuclear and missile tests. Several Republican senators had been demanding such a move."

Coincidence?

Over the weekend, a State Department spokesman stressed Park's release was not part of any deal.

We should take the State Department at its word. However, the Castro brothers -- long-time practitioners of blackmail -- have surely been taking notes.

Whether it's North Korea or Cuba, one thing is certain: these countries should not be travel destinations for Americans.

Due to its distance, harsh climate and logistical challenges in getting there, rarely do Americans think of traveling to North Korea.

Unfortunately -- if U.S. policy were to be altered -- the same wouldn't be true for Castro's tropical gulag.


A Closer Look at Regime Change

Monday, February 8, 2010
Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson wrote a great editorial last week on the concept of regime change entitled, "U.S. solidarity could boost Iran's Green Revolution."

He makes the argument that:

For some Americans, the idea of regime change is tainted by the Iraqi invasion and occupation. But there is also the model of South African regime change, overturning apartheid with massive international pressure, and Polish regime change, aided by covert American support for unions and democratic resistance.

No one argues that the Iraq model should apply to Iran. But is Iran ripe for the South African or Polish approaches? Part of the answer may come on Feb. 11 -- the anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution -- when the democratic resistance has called for another round of mass protests.

Read more here.

Trip to Cuba Scrutinized

Over the weekend, columnist Peter Hitchens scrutinized a recent trip to Cuba by former British Conservative (Tory) Party leader William Hague in the Daily Mail newspaper:

Hague kowtows to a grim tyrant

I used to have some time for William Hague. Not any more.

I discover that this supposedly principled Conservative recently visited Cuba, that imprisoned island, and there met members of its repellent tyranny.

A spokesman says: 'He had a three-hour meeting and lunch with Cuba's foreign minister, including a vigorous discussion on democracy and human rights. This would not have been possible had he met opposition figures on the same visit.'

Why ever not? And if not, why go at all?

(EDITOR'S NOTE: A question we repeatedly ask of U.S. Members of Congress and their staffs who do the same when they travel to Castro's Cuba.)

Cuba is one of the grimmest dictatorships on the planet. Its leading dissident, Oswaldo Paya, is a man of great principle and lives under siege.

Would the Cuban Stalinists have dared to interfere if Mr. Hague had gone to meet him, as he should have done?

Mr Hague was accompanied on this curious trip by the mysterious Lord Ashcroft, widely known as 'the man who bought the Tory Party'.

What is he getting for his millions?


It's no wonder that in March of last year -- seemingly out of nowhere -- Hague called for the immediate lifting of U.S. sanctions towards Cuba.

It was all about business.

For more on the private jets, luxury yachts and business interests behind the Cuban foray of Hague and Lord Ashcroft, click here.

A Vivid Reminder

Sunday, February 7, 2010
Yesterday, we posted a note on the recent beating and arrest of 37 dissidents for protesting the brutal prison conditions of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Zapata Tamayo, an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, is serving a 25-year sentence for "disobedience."

In response, the Castro regime decided to give these 37 dissidents a taste of the prison conditions as well.

Hopefully, these real time pictures of the prison cell where they were held will serve as a vivid reminder of the brutality of this regime and of the importance of modern technology in holding it accountable.

Fists Clenched Tight(er)

According to The Hill:

President Barack Obama's offer to extend a hand to rogue regimes hasn't been met with reciprocation of unclenching fists, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said.

In an interview aired Sunday morning reflecting on her first year as the nation's top diplomat, Clinton also said that terrorist syndicates posed a greater threat to the U.S. than the actions of any one nation such as Iran.

"We will extend a hand," Obama said in his inaugural address, "if you are willing to unclench your fist." When asked by CNN's Candy Crowley whether Iran had unclenched its fist in the past year, Clinton firmly responded, "No."

When asked if North Korea had done so, Clinton also responded, "No," adding, "Not to the extent we'd like to see them, but engagement has brought us a lot."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Add Cuba and Burma to that list also.

One other noteworthy constant: Repression by these tyrannical regimes has actually intensified due to a perceived sense of impunity.

37 Dissidents Arrested (in a Week)

According to the EFE:

Dissidents Beaten, Detained in Cuba

HAVANA – At least 37 dissidents were detained this week during protests in the eastern province of Camagüey in solidarity with an ailing political prisoner, the unofficial Cuban Human Rights Commission said Friday.

The commission's chairman, Elizardo Sanchez, told foreign reporters that 23 people were "brutally beaten" and arrested Wednesday after a street demonstration about the plight of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Another 14 dissidents were detained Thursday as they gathered in a private home for additional "actions in solidarity with Zapata Tamayo," Sanchez said.

All but five of those arrested have already been released, the rights commission said.

Zapata Tamayo is being treated at a hospital in Camagüey after mounting a hunger strike to protest mistreatment by prison authorities, the commission said.

Recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, Zapata Tamayo was arrested in 2003 and sentenced to 25 years for the offenses of resistance and disrupting public order.

Here's the Amnesty International fact sheet on Zapata Tamayo:

Orlando Zapata Tamayo is a member of the Movimiento Alternativa Republicana, Alternative Republican Movement, and a member of the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica, National Civic Resistance Committee.

He has been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were reportedly arrested and later released. He was also arrested on 6 December 2002 along with Oscar Elías Biscet(3), but was released on 8 March 2003.

Most recently, he was arrested on the morning of 20 March 2003 whilst taking part in a hunger strike at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and other political prisoners. He was reportedly taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters. He has not been tried yet, but the prosecutor is reportedly asking for three years' imprisonment for "desacato", "desordenes publicos", "public disorder", and "desobediencia".

He has reportedly been moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and most recently, Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. According to reports, on 20 October 2003 he was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations.