Cubans Deserve Freedom Too

Saturday, April 2, 2011
By Joe Cardona in The Miami Herald:

In the wake of former President Carter's recent visit to Havana I'm amazed at how little the United States and other democracies around the globe demand from the Western Hemisphere's most totalitarian regime.

Carter's second trip to Cuba (his first was in 2002) happened amidst political turmoil in the Middle East. As the winds of change blew through Egypt and continue to swirl in Libya and Yemen, Cuba's regime steadfastly remains rooted to a failed political and economic system buoyed by old rhetoric reminiscent of "Flat Earth" theories. And yet, as the free world supported the departure of Egypt's Mubarak and is presently attempting to bomb Gadhafi into submission, the demands on the Cuban government to modify its tyrannical rule are meager and anemic at best.
 
Read more here.

Bye Bye Zapatero

Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has announced that he will not seek re-election. 

He will not be missed.

The Zapatero Administration worked steadfastly in the European Union to appease the Castro regime and to grant it numerous unilateral concessions.

Fortunately, its policies always met resistance from Eastern European countries that knew the psyche of brutal Communist dictators and opposed such concessions.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Spain's Zapatero Won't Seek Re-election

Under pressure to clarify his political future, Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero said on Saturday he won't run for re-election when his current term ends in March 2012.

In a televised speech at a meeting of his Socialist party's federal committee, the 50-year-old leader repeated several times he would serve out the remainder of his term and focus on carrying out his program of reforms to overhaul Spain's ailing economy.

His stature severely diminished by a 20% unemployment rate and unpopular economic reforms, Mr. Zapatero hadn't been expected to run for re-election.

Kerry is Not Congress (Castro is Not Cuba)

The Castro brothers like to label anything they dislike, or which opposes them, as being "anti-Cuba."

Thus, the Castros inappropriately (and selfishly) equate their dictatorship with the entire island of Cuba.

Apparently, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry is taking a page from the Castros' playbook.

Yesterday, the Obama Administration notified Congress of its intention to disburse the FY2010 USAID funds ($20 million) appropriated for its Cuba democracy programs (which helps civil society with access to technology and the families of political prisoners survive).

Yet, Chairman Kerry has taken it upon himself to unilaterally delay the disbursement of these funds stating:

"Before this $20 million is committed, a full review of the programs should be undertaken and the Administration should consult with the Congress."
 
The problem is that the Administration has already consulted with Congress -- and Congress has already voted to approve and appropriate the FY2010 budget.
 
Furthermore, the last time Cuba democracy programs specifically came up for a vote, they were overwhelmingly approved in a Democratic-led House by a vote of 254-170.
 
Thus, Chairman Kerry is inappropriately (and selfishly) equating his own personal views with the entire U.S. Congress.

Quote of the Week

Friday, April 1, 2011
"[Assad's] confronted with popular demonstrations calling for change. We've seen these kind of demonstrations all over the Middle East, and it goes back to Secretary [Clinton's] speech in Doha that leadership of many of these countries need to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people. It's far too easy to look for conspiracy theories than respond in a meaningful way for the call for reform."
 
-- Mark L. Toner, U.S. State Department Spokesman, March 30th, 2011
 
EDITOR'S NOTE: An important lesson for former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who spends most of his time and effort -- while visiting the Middle East and most recently in Cuba -- criticizing the United States, as opposed to challenging and finding excuses for the tyrants that are hosting him.

Careful What You Lobby For

Last year, the Brookings Institution, Council of the Americas and Cuba Study Group, issued a report lobbying the Obama Administration and Congress to allow U.S. investment in Cuba's domestic telecom network.

Cuba's telecom network is owned and operated by Castro's monopoly, ETECSA.

Here's an example of why that's a very bad idea:

The last thing the U.S. should be doing is providing the Castro regime (or any other dictatorship) with the latest tools and technology for censorship.

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. Products Help Block Mideast Web

As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites.

McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee's Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region [...]

Today, that U.S. technology is now among the tools used in the clampdowns on uprisings across the Middle East. In Egypt, Syria, Tunisia and elsewhere, bloggers have been jailed and even beaten as governments try to repress online expression.

Makers of Web-filtering technology say they can't control how customers use their products. "You can add additional websites to the block list," says Joris Evers, a McAfee spokesman. "Obviously what an individual customer would do with a product once they acquire it is beyond our control."

What Carter Should Have Said in Cuba

Thursday, March 31, 2011
By young pro-democracy activist Aramis L. Perez in Fox News:
 
During his visit to Cuba this week, former President Jimmy Carter packed an international media spotlight with his guayabera, affording him an opportunity to refocus the international conversation on Cuba on the efforts of the pro-freedom Resistance to achieve a democratic transition, and the injustices suffered by the people on the island at the hands of the Communist regime.

Instead, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate passed up the chance to stand squarely on the world stage for the Cuban people's democratic aspirations – embodied in the nonviolent action valiantly undertaken by the freedom movement despite the regime's reprisals, including beatings, imprisonment, and torture – and chose to bolster causes important to the dictatorship.

Yes, he met with some members of civil society and the Cuban Resistance. He reportedly expressed hope for the Cuban people to enjoy freedom of speech, assembly, and travel and for the enforcement of international rights standards.

But then Carter called for the release of five convicted members of the regime's "Wasp" spy network serving sentences in US prison. Ringleader Gerardo Hernandez is serving life for charges including contributing to the murders of Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales in the 1996 shootdown over international waters of civilian aircraft flown by humanitarian group Brothers to the Rescue.

Carter's position was to excuse these heinous crimes.

As an American son of Cuban exiles, and a supporter of the Cuban Resistance, I wonder what might have been had Carter chosen a more honorable course.

Picture the onetime head of state and government of the United States pausing before that roomful of world media. They wait to ask about American citizen Alan Gross, who worked to give Cuban Jews access to communications technology and was held hostage for over a year before being unjustly sentenced to 15 years imprisonment. His release has been sought by the Obama administration, Jewish groups, and the Cuban-American community, among others. They wait to hear about US economic sanctions, which Carter subsequently claimed impeded the regime from undertaking significant reform. He neglected to explain, though, exactly how the lack of business dealings between American companies and the Cuban nomenklatura prevent the regime from releasing all political prisoners, legalizing non-Communist political activity and scheduling free and fair elections, the conditions in US law for lifting those sanctions.

Then imagine him surprising all concerned by saying something like this:

"I met with a number of representatives of Cuban civil society and the pro-democracy movement today. Among them were Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a Nobel Peace Prize candidate, and pioneering nonviolent freedom activist; Laura Pollan and other members of the Ladies in White who have marched every Sunday for years for the release of political prisoners; Angel Moya Acosta and other former Amnesty International prisoners of conscience; Yoani Sanchez and Claudia Cadelo, award-winning bloggers, and others who overcome great obstacles to free expression. In Dr. Biscet, I see a man whose work deserves to be recognized by the Nobel Committee. As a former Peace Prize recipient, I support his nomination.

Today, I ask why citizens like these are denied a say in their country's future. I ask why they are portrayed on State television as 'Pawns of the Empire' for exercising basic rights and for using the Internet to connect with fellow citizens and friends abroad.

Cuba has been under one-party rule for 52 years. The Cuban people have been told falsely that my country and the American people wish to do them harm. Cubans know this is not the case, and for those who do not, let me assure you my fellow citizens want to see your country flourish, and for you to enjoy the same liberties and
opportunities we do.

The Cuban people deserve a government that respects their freedom, chosen through free and fair elections. I urge world leaders to join me in calling for these elections. I pledge my support, and the Carter Center's, to this enterprise which could mark the beginning of a new chapter in Cuban history written by the Cuban people themselves, free from the fear of oppression."

President Carter could have leveraged the prestige of the office he once occupied, the status enjoyed by his Center, and the international media spotlight he brought with him to Havana to offer Cuba's nonviolent freedom movement a boost that would have registered in the world's newsrooms, among policymakers, and in real world and online forums. But he did not.

Rubio Calls for Recognition of Libyan Rebels

Sen. Rubio Calls On Senate To Pass Bipartisan Resolution Authorizing Action In Libya And Removal Of Qaddafi Regime

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marco Rubio yesterday sent a letter to Senate leadership requesting their support for bringing a bipartisan resolution to the Senate Floor that would authorize military action in Libya and the removal of Muammar Qaddafi from power. Furthermore, the resolution should urge the President to recognize the Interim Transitional National Council as the legitimate government in Libya.

In the letter, Senator Rubio states that, "I am writing to seek your support for bringing a bi-partisan resolution to the Senate floor authorizing the President's decision to participate in allied military action in Libya. Furthermore, this resolution should also state that removing Muammar Qaddafi from power is in our national interest and therefore should authorize the President to accomplish this goal. To that end, the resolution should urge the President to immediately recognize the Interim Transitional National Council as the legitimate government in Libya."

Senator Rubio adds, "As long as Qaddafi remains in power, he will be in a position to terrorize his own people and potentially the rest of the world. In fact he has vowed to turn rebel strongholds into 'rivers of blood.' If he succeeds, it will provide a blueprint to repressive regimes across the Middle East in the use of force against unarmed civilians. And unlike the conflicts in other nations in the region, the rebels in Libya have requested and welcome our support."

Raul's Smirk Says It All

Below is a very telling picture of Cuban dictator Raul Castro, as he sees off U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the airport in Havana.

Castro is obviously very satisfied with Carter's visit.

Meanwhile, as of last night, two of the pro-democracy activists who tried to hold a protest outside the Capitol building, Eriberto Liranza Romero and Boris Rodriguez Jimenez, remain unaccounted for.

Thus, there are two more political prisoners in Cuba today than when Carter arrived on Monday.

Great job, Mr. President.

Statement from U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC

Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Statement from the US-Cuba Democracy PAC on President Carter's Call for the Release of the "Cuban Five":
 
In a press conference today from Havana, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter missed an opportunity to call for the freedom of the Cuban people from the brutal Castro dictatorship. Instead, he chose to criticize U.S. policy and call for the release of five Cuban agents ("the Cuban Five") convicted by U.S. federal juries of espionage and, in one case, conspiracy to commit murder.
 
In doing so, President Carter has tragically implied an equivalency between the "Cuban Five" and the case of American development worker Alan Gross, who was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime for helping Cuba's Jewish community connect to the Internet -- a fundamental human right enshrined under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
 
President Carter's unfortunate remarks are a huge disservice to efforts for Mr. Gross's release and to the cause of human rights internationally.

New York Congressman Denounces Carter

U.S. Rep. Grimm (a former FBI Special Agent) Denounces President Carter's Cuba Trip to Visit Castro

Carter should stand-up for America and try to free captive U.S. citizen, instead of getting friendly with dictator

U.S. Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) released the following statement on former President Jimmy Carter's 3-day visit to Cuba:

"President Carter's trip to Cuba should have been an opportunity to denounce the atrocities carried out over almost of half a century of a dictatorship rule. Instead of trying to create a bond with Castro, Carter should be taking a stand for America and the spread of freedom and democracy to one of our most oppressed neighbors. He can start by calling for the release of U.S. government contractor Alan Gross, who is being held captive by Castro's oppressive regime, and speak out against the reprehensible acts that have gone on for far too long.

It's disheartening that Cuba has become a symbol of everything that is anti-America. What was once a beautiful country full of life and aspiration has become a deteriorated nation, isolated from its neighbors. The limits to freedom that were imposed by Fidel Castro over a half a century ago, are now carried on in full force by his brother. I stand with all Cuban-Americans, in denouncing the Castro legacy of dictatorship that continues to suppress the freedoms, health, and livelihood of the Cuban people."

Tyrant's Modern Rhetoric (Ancient Tactic)

The following paragraph in today's Los Angeles Times summarizes current events in Syria:

Foreign conspiracies, media distortions and the hand of Israel are to blame for uprisings in Syria, President Bashar Assad insists in a speech to the nation. He does not offer to repeal the emergency law that has kept his regime in power since 1963 but says reforms are necessary while offering no specifics.

Sound familiar?

Here's the Cuban version:

Foreign conspiracies, media distortions and the hand of [the United States] are to blame for [widespread discontent] in [Cuba], President [Raul Castro] insists in a speech to the nation. He does not offer to repeal the emergency law that has kept his regime in power since [1959] but says reforms are necessary while offering no specifics.

And of course, Assad couldn't forget the compulsory line for embattled modern dictators:

"If we stay without reform we are on the course of destruction."

It's almost a direct quote from Raul Castro's December 18th, 2010 speech.

Finally, there's the most repugnant line: "It is my responsibility to secure the stability of the nation."

These tyrants have the audacity to equate their absolute power with "the nation."

Modern rhetoric for an ancient tactic -- deception.

An Important Recognition on Sanctions

In the New York Times, renowned journalist Al Hunt defends the Obama Administration's policy towards Libya (and criticizes the Bush Administration) by recognizing an important (and common-sense) fact:

That easing sanctions finances the repression of dictators.

Note to President Obama: The same applies to the Castro brothers in Cuba.

Here's Hunt's critique:

The criticism from neoconservatives that Mr. Obama is a multilateralist, hesitant to exercise U.S. power, in the mold of Presidents Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, does not stand up to scrutiny. Mr. Obama escalated the war in Afghanistan — committing more troops and more air assaults than the Bush administration even considered — stayed the course in Iraq, and when Somali pirates took an American freighter captain hostage, the president ordered U.S. Navy snipers to shoot the captors; three pirates were killed and the American was freed.

Further, the Reagan and Bush examples, so cherished by conservatives, are especially ironic when discussing Libya. It was Mr. Bush five years ago who normalized relations with Colonel Qaddafi after the dictator renounced weapons of mass destruction. That easing of tensions has enriched his coffers to pay for the current repression.
 
H/T Tania Mastrapa, Ph.D. 

Senator Menendez's Letter to President Carter

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
The following is a letter from U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter on his trip to Cuba:


20110329MenendezLetterToJimmyCarterOnCubaVisit -

Carter Not in Cuba to Free Gross

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter confirms that he is not in Cuba to free American development worker Alan Gross.

He's there to meet with the Cuban people's oppressors (the Castro brothers) and to unconditionally thaw relations with that brutal dictatorship.

UPDATE: Carter has made some time tomorrow morning to meet with a group of Cuban pro-democracy bloggers, former political prisoners and civil society activists.

From Politico:

Former President Jimmy Carter isn't in Cuba to negotiate for the release of jailed U.S. contractor Alan Gross, though he is hoping that his visit will help to thaw U.S.-Cuban relations, he said Tuesday.

Carter told reporters as he toured a convent in Old Havana that he had "spoken to some officials about the case of Mr. Gross," but indicated that his goal was not to bring the State Department contractor home. "I am not here to take him out of the country," Carter said, according to Reuters's translation of his answer, which he gave in Spanish.

"I hope we will be able to contribute to better relations between the two countries," Carter said.

There is NO Private Sector in Cuba

According to the Carter Center, the former President's trip to Cuba (at the invitation of dictator Raul Castro) is to "learn about new economic policies and the upcoming Party Congress."  

So here's lesson #1.
 
Despite a great deal of media speculation, exaggeration and misreporting -- there is no private sector in Cuba.

From the Business Dictionary:

Private Sector - Part of national economy made up of, and resources owned by, private enterprises. It includes the personal sector (households) and corporate sector (firms), and is responsible for allocating most of the resources within an economy.
 
Yet here are the Castro regime's General Guidelines (so-called "reforms") to be approved at the much-lauded VI Congress of the Cuban Communist Party ("PCC"):
 
I. Economic management model

1. The socialist planning system will continue to be the principal means to direct the national economy and must in turn be transformed in its methodological and organizational aspects to accommodate new forms of management and guidance of the national economy.

2. The management model must recognize and stimulate — along with the socialist state enterprises, which are the principal form of the national economy — mixed capital enterprises, cooperatives, lessors of state-owned land in usufruct, lessors of state facilities, self-employed workers and other forms which may contribute to increasing the efficiency of social labor.

3. In the new forms of non-state management, the concentration of ownership in legal or natural entities shall not be permitted.

Now, let's review:
 
The Cuban people -- whether before or after the VI PCC Congress -- are not allowed to own any business (small or large). 
 
Thus, there are no small (private) businesses in Cuba, either.
 
All that Castro's Guidelines allow are "leasing" (facilities) and "licensing" (the ability to perform one of 178 specific tasks) from the state (which remains totalitarian -- owns everything).
 
That is not a private sector by any definition.

Religious Leaders Blatantly Lied to Carter

Monday, March 28, 2011
Upon his arrival in Cuba today, U.S. President Jimmy Carter met with two religious leaders (with close ties to the Castro regime) -- the Jewish community's Adela Dworin and Catholic Cardinal Jaime Ortega.

Both proceeded to blatantly lie to Carter.

According to Reuters:

Local Jewish leader Adela Dworin told reporters Carter did not talk about contractor Alan Gross or any political topics during a stop at Cuba's main Jewish headquarters, located in Havana's Vedado district.

She said Carter asked about religious freedom and was told "that we openly practice our religion."

That's interesting, for on the very same day, it was reported that:

Cuba has released an evangelical pastor from a six-and-a-half year prison sentence under condition that he does not preach and remains confined to his home city of Camaguey, representatives said Monday, March 28.

Omar Gude Perez, a leader of a fast growing network of independent churches, was informed about the conditions by judges in early March following last month's release from prison, said advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW).

As for Ortega, EFE reported:

Jimmy Carter met here privately Monday with Cuba's Catholic primate, Cardinal Jaime Ortega, and with leaders of the Jewish community as the former U.S. president began a three-day private visit to the island.
 
"Mr. Carter expressed to Cardinal Ortega his happiness over the process of dialogue Cuba's Church is pursuing with the government of President Raul Castro Ruz, one of whose results has been the release of more than 100 Cuban (political) prisoners," the archdiocese said later in a statement.
 
Correction, Cardinal.
 
Castro begrudgingly released these political prisoners due to the international pressure (not dialogue) created pursuant to the tragic death (by hunger strike) of another Cuban political prisoner, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and due to the sacrifice of hunger striker Guillermo Farinas and the Ladies in White, who have suffered unimaginable repression.
 
Ortega comfortably stepped in at the last minute to relieve pressure from the Castro regime through the forced exile to Spain of nearly all of these political prisoners, whom he now has the audacity to lie about.

Will Carter Meet With the Ladies in White?

Or will he only meet with those approved by the Castro regime?
 
To his credit, during President Carter's previous visit in 2002, he did meet with some pro-democracy leaders. 
 
However, it doesn't seem to be on the agenda this trip.
 
From EFE:
 
Cuba's Ladies in White willing to meet with Carter

Cuba's Ladies in White said they will continue their activities in defense of human rights following the release of all "Group of 75" dissidents
, and are willing to meet with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter during his visit to the island this week.

Laura Pollan, one of the spokeswomen of the organization that seeks freedom for the nation's political prisoners, said they will continue the struggle for the release of dissidents, for a change in the laws that allow Cubans to be jailed "for speaking freely, and to secure respect for human rights."

"The existence of the Ladies in White has not ended as many think, the Ladies in White will be around for a while," Pollan said, referring to the release last week of all Group of 75 prisoners still in jail.

Pollan described Sunday as "special" because after eight years, not one of the 75 dissidents sentenced in the wave of repression of the "Black Spring" of 2003 remains behind bars.

"Though the Group of 75 dissidents are now free or out on parole, our marches and activities will continue as always," Pollan said upon returning from the march the group carries out every Sunday after attending Mass at a Havana church.

"We are open to any invitation he might make us, though we don't know what is on his agenda and we do know that he comes at the invitation of (Cuban President) Raul Castro," Pollan said.

More Info on Crackdown During Carter Visit

Cuban Democracy Activists Protest at Havana's Capitol Building as Carter Begins Visit

HAVANA - Members of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo National Civic Resistance and Civil Disobedience Front demonstrated at Havana's historic National Capitol Building, the seat of government before the 1959 totalitarian takeover, to demand the liberation without forced exile of all Cuban political prisoners and to protest against the Communist system.

Despite a Sunday night roundup of Resistance Front activists during which Adriano Castañeda Meneses, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera and Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" were detained, members of the national pro-democracy coalition from several regions of the country carried out the demonstration in the Island's capital, timed to coincide with a visit to Cuba by former President of the United States Jimmy Carter.

During the protest, the activists wore t-shirts reading "We all are the Resistance. Zapata Lives!" The latter phrase refers to prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo who was murdered by the Castro regime in 2010.

A State Security-organized mob attacked the non-violent demonstrators.

"[Eriberto] Liranza was brutally beaten by paramilitary mobs", stated by telephone to the Cuban Democratic Directorate activist Julio Columbié Batista, co-president of the Central Opposition Coalition and a member of the Resistance Front.

Among those detained as a result of the demonstration at the Capitol are activists Eriberto Liranza Romero, president of the Cuban Youth for Democracy Movement and Boris Rodríguez Jiménez, a member of the same organization, a Resistance Front member. Additional activists yet to be identified at the time of this notice are presumed to be detained.

"This action is a demand for the freedom of the political prisoners, and a response– a moral slap in the face– to the campaigns undertaken by the regime to divide the opposition. We are true to our motto: the streets belong to the people", stated by telephone Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez", General Secretary of the Resistance Front.

Source: Cuban Democratic Directorate

Crackdown Begins as Carter Arrives in Cuba

As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter arrives in Cuba today, the Castro regime has begun an island-wide crackdown on pro-democracy activists to prevent any public demonstrations. 
 
According to Afro-Cuban pro-democracy leader, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez," the regime is detaining activists all over the island that seek to make their way to Havana in order to conduct a peaceful protest in front of the Capitol building. 
 
Additionally, several activists were brutally assaulted and arrested this morning by Castro's secret police, when they attempted to stand in front of the Capitol with signs reading "Freedom Without Forced Exile for Cuba's Political Prisoners," "The Streets Belong to the Cuban People," and "We Are The Resistance."
 
Antunez is calling upon President Carter and the Carter Center to intercede on behalf of the detained activists and to demand their human right to peacefully protest.
 
Click here for Antunez's statement.

CNN Debate on Alan Gross

Click below to watch Sunday's debate on Cuba policy and the imprisonment of American development worker Alan Gross on CNN's "Choque de Opiniones" (in Spanish).

Please note [former Castro regime official] Arturo Lopez Levy's direct reference to the "dividends" the Castro regime has received
from the unjust imprisonment of Alan Gross.

It highlights the Castro regime's strategy of using innocent Cuban and American lives to receive "dividends" from abroad -- the acquiescence to which only endangers more lives in the future.


CNN: Mauricio Claver-Carone and Arturo Lopez Levy on Cuba Policy from Capitol Hill Cubans on Vimeo.

The Ladies March On

Sunday, March 27, 2011
In an act of unselfishness and solidarity with all of Cuba's political prisoners.

From AP:

Cuba dissident group continues weekly protest despite relatives release

A Cuban dissident group formed to demand freedom for imprisoned relatives is continuing its weekly protests despite the liberation of the last of their family members. Ladies in White founder Laura Pollan says the group will continue its activities to demand freedom for all prisoners of conscience and for human rights.

The group began weekly Sunday marches near Havana's cathedral after the government arrested 75 dissidents in 2003 and accused them of working with the U.S. government to undermine Cuba's socialist system. Most of the protesters were wives or relatives of the 75.

The last of the dissidents were released this week under a deal with the Roman Catholic Church. Sunday's march was the first since then.

Welcome to Tourist (Dictator's) Paradise

Before booking a vacation tour package to an exotic location ruled by a dictatorship, you may first want to check out the human rights violations you may help fund.

The German-based International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) and the Frankfurt Ad Agency Leo Brunett have set up an online game to demonstrate the political reality of many seemingly perfect vacation spots.

To make people aware that traveling in certain countries directly supports the abusive regimes, and to help travelers chose different vacation spots, they have created an online game called “Welcome to the Tourist Paradise.”

In the game, the player takes the role of a tourist, moving the figure around typical tourist activities: a beach bar, disco, or some famous spiritual site.

On a second screen, running underneath the colorful dream vacation world, one can observe how one unintentionally activates a parallel world of paramilitary forces. While in the upper screen one is guiding the tourist to a bar on a white beach, the paramilitary below burns down a press stand, brutally disperses a political gathering, and shoots one person. The entanglement of a picture-perfect vacation and the gray zone of financially supported human rights abuses becomes a direct experience.

Wanna play?

Click here (or on the picture below) for a must-see video presentation.