Speaking Against Brutal Violence

Saturday, June 25, 2011
From Hablalo Sin Miedo ("Speak Without Fear"):

Message from José Daniel Ferrer García regarding violence against opposition members

Listen to the message here.


In Palmarito de Cauto, a policeman by the name of Julio fractured three ribs of opposition member Amado Verdecia with one kick. Doctor says that the fractures have put his life in danger. The agent of repression who injured opposition member Wilbes Aguirre with a machete, has been hunting down opposition member Prudencio Villalon for the past two hours.

Six members of the opposition from Bayamo who were captured and beaten this past Tuesday remain detained.

José Daniel Ferrer García, former prisoner of conscience.

End of message.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Finding Lost Friends

Nearly every Cuban exile has a harrowing story about how they fled Castro's Cuba.

Each journey is full of tremendous risk, pain and sacrifice -- and that's just to leave the island.

Then, there are the challenges of starting a new life in a foreign land.

To help ease this transition, a new website has been launched to help Cubans find their friends and relatives abroad.

It's called Cuban Search.

According to its founder, George Utset (of the blog, The Real Cuba), the response has been overwhelming -- parents looking for children who had left Cuba and they couldn't find, children looking for their parents, brothers, cousins, friends and schoolmates.

You can either search for a particular name, or register and enter the person that you are looking for. You can also search alphabetically, by city, or even by school.

Cuban Search has also teamed up with Cuba Archive Project to provide a database of Cubans who have disappeared at sea trying to escape Castro's Cuba.

It is estimated that as many as 70,000 Cubans have perished at sea in search for freedom.

Thus far, over 900 have been identified.

You can search using their names, aliases, date of departure from Cuba and location.

Another tragic reality in this on-going Cuban saga.

Click here to begin your search.

In My Humble Opinion, Pt. 32

Friday, June 24, 2011
From Along the Malecon:

Lobbyist: Obama is "bailing out" Cuba

WASHINGTON – Mauricio Claver-Carone, one of America's most prominent pro-embargo lobbyists, gives Barack Obama mixed reviews for his approach toward Cuba.

Americans should be proud, he said in an interview, that the U.S. government hasn't supported the Cuban government's repression of dissidents and others who seek change.

The problem, he said, is that Obama loosened restrictions on travel and remittances so much that he's "bailing out the regime at the worst possible time."

Claver-Carone, 35, doesn't object to Cuban-Americans traveling to Cuba for humanitarian purposes.

Obama's "biggest mistake" was allowing Cuban-Americans to visit the island as often as they want, he said.

Some of the travelers have only been in the United States for a year, he said. They emigrate to the U.S. and start collecting government welfare checks. They stay for a year, then begin traveling back to Cuba, where they spend much of their time – and their money.

"You can't be a refugee and then in a year and a day, go back to the source country. That's a problem. We can't have our cake and eat it, too."

"Going to Cuba 10 times a year isn't humanitarian. Our taxpayers are paying for a welfare state within a welfare state."

He also objects to Obama administration rules making it easier for anyone – not just Cuban-Americans – to send money to Cuba.

He said his single biggest criticism of Obama's Cuba policy is the "unlimited nature" of the rules on travel and remittances.

"I disagree with the overall policy changes," he said.

Claver-Carone sits on the board of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, which supports a tough stance against the Cuban government. He also edits a blog called Capitol Hill Cubans. He said he often finds himself writing blog posts when most other people are sleeping.

But, he said, "It's worth every sleepless night."

Too often, reporters are wrong about Cuba, he said. They publish stories containing "poorly elaborated facts."

He said he wants to "make them think twice" about what they write.

"Eventually the truth is somewhere in the middle."

He doesn't consider himself a "political philosopher" or a "professional blogger." He's a lawyer and lobbyist first - a "nuts-and-bolts person" who sticks to "what reality is."

Claver-Carone said the "biggest strength of U.S. policy" is that there is no question that the American government opposes Cuba's socialist regime.

"The United States indisputably in all senses – symbolically, economically, politically – is not on the side of the regime. Every Cuban knows that the United States is not on the side of the regime. That's important. We in no way colluded with this dictatorship."

Cubans will remember and be grateful for that in the post-Castro era, just as eastern Europeans were thankful that Americans opposed leaders in Moscow, he said.

"After the fall of the Soviet Union, people in eastern Europe wanted to be U.S. allies. We were on their side and against the Soviets. Cuban people will feel that same way."

Lending any support to Cuba's socialist government would be "beyond grave," he said. "It would be a betrayal" to democracy activists to normalize relations with the socialist government and lift economic sanctions while Cuba's Communist Party is in power. "All international trade and tourism is still controlled by one monopoly."

Claver-Carone said money from trade, travel and remittances inevitably benefits the socialist government, giving it money to buy patrol cars from Russia, police batons from Spain and other equipment.

At least, he said, the U.S. government does not funnel money or supplies to the socialist government, even indirectly.

"The United States can say we didn't finance the repression of the people. We've got it right. We're not supporting a dictatorship. It's not an American baton hitting them over the head."

Claver-Carone supports U.S. democracy programs in Cuba. The Bush administration believed in the programs and "took them to another level."

However, non-profit organizations – not private contractors – should carry out democracy work in Cuba.

"I was an opponent of the contractors from Day 1. I don't like contractors. I'm a huge fan of and have great respect for NGOs like the NDI (National Democratic Institute), NED (National Endowment for Democracy) and IRI (International Republican Institute).

NGOs boost democracy activists, who will someday form political parties that will challenge the socialist government. "That's how campaigns start."

Claver-Carone is also an admirer of the young Cuban bloggers who oppose the socialist government.

"They are getting their feet wet. Our role is to make sure that they have the resources to put out their views. I think there's a real opportunity for the Cuban people to start with a clean slate. We don't want to impose anything on them. We want to help the Cuban people."

Cuban exiles are financially strong and ready to pour resources into Cuba to repair and improve the infrastructure in the post-Castro era.

"Miami was a swamp until Cubans got there. Cubans are very entrepreneurial. The future of Cuba is economically secure. Politically, it's a process."

And change will take time.

Committee Repeals Obama Travel Regs

Thursday, June 23, 2011
The House Committee on Appropriations has adopted language in its must-pass FY'12 Financial Services Appropriations bill, which funds the U.S. Department of Treasury, to repeal the Obama Administration's regulations on Cuban-American travel and remittances, and restore the reasonable caps and limitations in existence prior to April 2009.

This effectively eliminates the single largest source of revenue for the Castro regime and sends a strong message that its brutal repression -- including the taking of an American hostage since December 2009 -- is unacceptable.

Raul's Paranoid Insecurity

How weak, paranoid and insecure must Cuban dictator Raul Castro be that he feels directly threatened by these two peaceful, defenseless, Afro-Cuban, female, pro-democracy activists?

Or conversely -- how powerful is the moral authority of these peaceful, defenseless, Afro-Cuban, female, pro-democracy activists that they threaten Raul Castro's absolutism?

Either way -- it doesn't bode well for Castro's dictatorship.

From Spain's El Mundo:

According to opposition member Sonia Garro, intelligence officials have informed her that a criminal case may be opened against her and the six other women who repeatedly organize peaceful protest marches on the streets of Havana.

Garro said that one of the interrogators, who are agents of State Security, told her that "President Raul Castro himself wants to know who is the woman who is organizing these street protests. Perhaps we will not imprison all seven, but for certain the leader or leaders will go to prison."

Just like the rest of the group, Sonia is a member of the Ladies of Support for the Ladies in White. In addition, she is part of an independent Afro-Cuban organization led by Mercedes Fresneda, another person threatened by the authorities with criminal charges for continuing their anti-government protests.

(Translation by Babalu Blog)

Iran Seeks Closer Ties With Cuba

Wednesday, June 22, 2011
From Iran Focus:

Iran seeks closer ties with Cuba 

Iran's hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in a telephone conversation with Cuban President Raul Castro expressed Tehran's enthusiasm and willingness to intensify relations with all South American nations in particular Cuba, Iranian state media reported on Wednesday.

"The Islamic Republic of Iran attaches special importance to its relations with the Latin American countries, especially the revolutionary and great state of Cuba, believing that the policy serves the interests of the world's freedom-seeking and revolutionary nations", Ahmadinejad was quoted as saying by the state-run news agency Fars.

"The two countries are seeking to advance the goals and causes of their revolutionary and independent nations through establishing sustainable relations and adopting shared views", he said.

So Many Syrian Similarities

An excerpt from Nick Cohen's column, "Face the Facts - Syria is an Apartheid State," in The Guardian:

I hope that liberals of my generation who beat their chests as they protested against racial apartheid in southern Africa will soon feel as outraged by religious apartheid in the Middle East. The Syrian opposition has as much right to our support as the African National Congress did because it has not targeted Alawites because of their religion. Indeed, it places its hopes on the Alawite-led army mutinying.

Nor does it want western military intervention. In a discussion of the opposition's needs, the pro-democracy think tank, the Henry Jackson Society, emphasised the modesty of the dissidents' requests. They need encrypted laptops and satellite phones and sim cards to circumvent the regime's media blackouts and so continue the documentation of atrocities, and support from western intelligence services as they seek to persuade sympathetic Syrian army officers to switch sides.

To date, little beyond token sanctions has been forthcoming. Western governments remain lost in the delusion that Assad is a potential reformer rather than an actual monster, on the sole grounds, as far as I can see, that he was once a student in London and that the drooling toadies of Vogue magazine hailed his glamorous wife as "the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies." They still cannot see him as an enemy.

Time Magazine's Cuba Spinster

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
There's nothing worse than a journalist trying to pass off an opinion as fact.

Time's Miami and Latin America bureau chief, Tim Padgett, has long-held biases against U.S. policy toward Cuba and the political leadership of the Cuban-American community.

So it's no surprise that in Time's (appropriately-named) blog, Global "Spin," he writes a multi-layered hit piece on U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL).

Some will argue that Padgett is expressing his opinion in a blog -- not a news story.

However, that's part of the problem -- when journalists pretend to be activist bloggers (and vice-versa).

But that's a bigger philosophical debate.

Here's the immediate issue.

In his critique of Senator Rubio, Padgett makes the following completely unsubstantiated accusation:

Rubio feels that because (USINT Chief Jonathan) Farrar showed himself too soft on the Castros while recently serving as the U.S.'s top diplomat in Havana, he would therefore be too soft on Nicaragua's authoritarian leftist President, Daniel Ortega. (Rubio's assertion that Farrar didn't adequately engage Cuban dissidents, however, is fairly disingenuous given how long Cuban-American leaders once dismissed those dissidents as sell-outs because they didn't advocate violent government overthrow.)

We'd like to challenge Padgett to substantiate his statement about Cuban-American leaders dismissing dissidents that didn't advocate violent government overthrow as "sell-outs."

This biased accusation couldn't be farther from the truth.

Cuban-American leaders have always highlighted and heralded the courageous non-violence and civil-disobedience campaign of Cuba's pro-democracy movement.

Stop the sloppy journalism or blatant untruths.

Letter From Castro's Hell

From the Cuba-based blog, Crossing the Barbed Wire:

At the time of his death, Harol Brito was only 39 years old. He had spent 16 years of his life in prison because of 'disrespect' against the Commander-in-Chief, threat, resistance and disobedience against the authorities. State Security began to investigate him when he was 13 years old due to 'ideological diversion.' While he was serving a sentence in the provincial 'El Tipico' prison of Las Tunas for supposedly robbing someone violently, he died handcuffed in a room of the Che Guevara Hospital at 1:30 pm on February 12, 2011.

Letter from Hell
by Harol Brito Parra

January 26th 2011 - "I, prisoner Harol Brito Parra (number 35166), am locked away in cell # 4 of Hallway H of Detachment #15 of the Provincial Las Tunas Prison for being a political persecuted pacifist who, ever since I was a child, proclaimed myself an enemy of the Castro tyranny which, for 52 years, has oppressed and subdued our Cuban nation, killing, torturing, and terrorizing without the least bit of remorse.

They jail us, they disappear us, they harass us, they insult us, and I really think that there are no words adequate to describe so much criminality. And the nations, governments, and humanity in general, around the world do nothing to put an end to so much pain and suffering.

I am 39 years old, and I have spent my life in prison. I spent approximately 14 years in prisons of maximum security and 2 years in the prisons which apply forced labor. These consisted of subhuman conditions, thriving with diseases such as HIV and Aids, tuberculosis, bronchitis, leptospirosis, bronchopneumonia, as well as famine, rats, cockroaches, fleas, and other bugs. God knows this is true.
The prisons of the Castro tyranny are hell on earth. They refuse us medicines and on top of that they take away our medical attention to hand it out among the terrorist buddies of the Castros throughout various countries of the world. And of course, as the saying goes 'there is no one more blind than he who wishes to not see.' Neither nations nor the world want to take a look at the suffering of the Cuban people. And I am not saying this without facts and proof. I have been victim of everything I said I have suffered, and much more. My intention is not to speak lies, I have much proof to show of what my life has been like, and proving that all I say is true.

In 1996, while I was imprisoned in the punishment cells of Detachment #47 in Combinado del Este in the city of Havana, I became sick due to the excessive humidity and the subhuman conditions. I suffered from bronchopneumonia, and my left lung was heavily damaged, and I am convinced that it was God who saved me. And I say that because the doctors said I was miraculously fine after they saw that the liquid which had gotten into my lung and ribs had disappeared by giving me medicines.

After suffering this disease, my health did not improve, for I never was able to get back to my normal weight. My body has been sick, so much so that words cannot describe it. Last year, in April, I nearly died. Or better said, they did all in their power to let me die.

Thanks, first of all to God and his will, many members of the opposition and many independent journalists worked together to not let me die: Jose Daniel Ferrer, "Papito", Caridad Caballero, Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leyva, Alberto Mendez Castello, Ana Belkis Ferrer, Roberto de Jesus, and many other people and various churches from my village (Puerto Padre) prayed for my health, offered me food and medicine, something which the "New Pines" Church, which my mother attends to meet with Jesus Christ, did as well.

When the guards had no other option but to let the doctors tend to me for so many reasons and so much pressure, then they were not able to get pleasure from seeing me die little by little.

I had a very large tumor in my throat and suffered from ganglionic pneumonia which affected all my organs and all my body. Once again they had no other option but to isolate me and give me medicines.

I am writing this letter to denounce to the world that the medicines given to me did not cure my disease. I took the 100 doses given to me during a period of 6 to 20 days, the 60 doses of 14 pills day after day, and the 40 doses of 7 pills on Mondays and Thursdays for 4 months and 20 days. Not once did I refuse those medications. I took all the pills that were given to me. And I am not lying about what I am going to say: They released me without having been cured. On November 4th, the pneumonia specialists told me they were going to take me back to prison.

Since that day, I have been in the prison of Las Tunas living in conditions which are truly subhuman. I have told my relatives, my brother dissidents, the independent journalists, my friends, and everyone that I am fine. Having much faith in God, and confiding in him and trying to prevent those who love me from suffering. But everything has its time and everything under this sky has its day. The time has come to, with much valor, tell the world that I am slowly dying because of my lung disease. And it must also be said that neither the directors of this prison nor the health workers of the prison have done what they are supposed to do and are letting me die. In December, because of my demands, the prison authorities were forced to do a sputum test on me and x-rays. The results of the sputum exam were not shared with me or my family. Why do they hide the results? The x-ray appeared in one of the thousands of drawers of the prison, but not as something that was being filed, but something that was being hidden.

Thank God I was there the moment they took it out, because, thank God I knew that it was there where they were hiding it. Why was it not sent to a pulmonary specialist and why was it being hidden? Why do they hide it? Please, someone on earth, upon knowing of my situation, please intercede for me so that I do not die little by little, like the Castro dictatorship wants.

Is Danny Glover Selectively Color-Blind?

Last week, actor Danny Glover was back in Havana to visit his old friends, Cuban dictators Fidel and Raul Castro, and to attend the opening session of an official workshop entitled, "Cuba and the Afro-Descendant Peoples of the Americas."

Take a close look at the following picture from the workshop.

What's glaringly missing?

Obviously, any Afro-Cubans.

The only person of Afro-descent in the picture is Danny Glover.

Rather than hanging out with Cuba's elitist dictators, who don't allow Afro-Cubans in positions of power (despite their being a majority of the population), Glover should have instead visited with the island's courageous pro-democracy leaders.

They are mostly Afro-Cuban.

Former political prisoners like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Guillermo Farinas, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" (pictured below) and Angel Moya.

Or women like Yaimara Reyes Mesa, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera and Donaida Perez Paseiro -- who conduct marches and sit-ins for the rights and freedoms of all Cubans.

Unless, of course, Glover is selectively color-blind.

The Winds of Democratic Change

Monday, June 20, 2011
By Amb. Otto Reich and Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat in Newsmax:

Cuba Change Coming

Winds of change are opening doors that have been closed in oppressed countries for half a century, not only in the near East but also in the Caribbean. In central Cuba, one recent day seemed like any other until those winds blew through the main entrance at government-run Radio Placetas.

The station is owned and operated by the Castro regime, as are all radio stations in Cuba. Consequently, the station transmits only programming approved by Cuba's ruling Communist Party, broadcasting a predictable and monotonous replication of life under a totalitarian regime.

The fresh winds this time took the human form of three young black Cuban women, who opened the doors and demanded to be heard: Yaimara Reyes Mesa, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera and Donaida Perez Paseiro. Miriam, the station director, rushed to confront them. It is rare for citizens to demand air time in Castroite Cuba. In a calm and respectful voice, the three women insisted that the station air an opinion different from the government's official line about the recent death of dissident Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, who perished at the hands of police in the nearby city of Santa Clara a few days before.

"We are Cuban citizens, we live in this city. Don't we have a right to be heard?" said Yris. "This station only transmits the policies of the Party and the government," replied Miriam, the director, shocked that anyone would dare try to access the microphones of a "public" radio station for any unapproved message. "Then we will remain here until we are heard," countered the dissident Donaida.

Whipped into a fury by the station's ever-present Communist Party delegate, employees surrounded the three protesters with hostile shouts of "Whatever you tell us to do, Fidel, we will do…" (Pa' lo que sea, Fidel, pa' lo que sea). The unlikely heroines were unmoved; "We will not leave until the public knows that Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia was beaten to death by police." And remain they did, until police arrested them.

Yaimara, 29, Yris, 35, and Donaida, 39, are members of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement, a nonviolent protest organization that advocates for the re-establishment of civil rights for all Cubans. They were protesting the death of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia, a 46-year old activist and former political prisoner who died after being beaten by police in a park in the provincial capital of Santa Clara on May 8 of this year. The beating took place after dictator Raul Castro sternly warned the illegal but increasingly active opposition groups during the April closing of the Cuban Communist Party Congress: "...it is necessary for us to clarify that we will never deny the people the right to defend their Revolution, since the defense of independence, of the conquests of socialism and of our plazas and streets will continue to be the first duty of all Cuban citizens."

This was Castro's order, in Orwellian doublespeak, to police and paramilitary forces to attack freedom activists anywhere and anytime they saw fit.

After long imprisonments of peaceful dissidents led to international condemnation of the bankrupt, half-century-old Castro dictatorship, and failed to stem the rising tide of public defiance, brutal street violence seems to be the regime's principal recourse to stem a rising tide of popular resistance. The regime has reason to fear: Yris, Donaida and Yaimara are said to be the tip of an iceberg of grassroots opposition to the dictatorship. Young, black and from impoverished provinces, they are representative of the 93.1 percent of young Cubans who, according to a recent public opinion poll commissioned by the International Republican Institute, would vote in favor of changing Cuba from "the current political system to a democratic system with multi-party elections, freedom of speech and freedom of expression."

Shortly after being released from her arrest for the Radio Placetas sit-in, Yris joined other civic activists in a public march in her city. Violently intercepted by Regime police, Yris was thrown to the ground and beaten unconscious. After her release, before the pain of her injuries had begun to fade, she cried: "I will not renounce the struggle for Cuban freedom." The march concluded a twelve-day cycle of protests organized across Cuba by the National Civic Resistance Front (FNRC).

Street protests like those by the FNRC were unheard of in a country where fear has ruled for decades. Their new-found frequency indicates that discontent against the Castro regime is overtaking fear, and motivating veteran activists to find freedom through nonviolent resistance. As distracted journalists and academics focus on Raul Castro and his purported plans of pseudo-reform, they would do well not to ignore Cuba's growing Resistance and its will to bring about democratic change. At this time of year the winds in the tropics can be unpredictable and strong. And after 52 years of abuse, old and weak doors may not stand for long.

Iran and Cuba Force Out Journalists

From the Committee to Protect Journalists:

Journalists in exile 2011: Iran, Cuba drive out critics

Two of the world's most repressive nations each forced at least 18 journalists to flee their homes in the past year. In exile, these journalists face enormous challenges. A CPJ special report by Elisabeth Witchel.

Nearly 70 journalists were forced into exile over the past 12 months, with more than half coming from Iran and Cuba, two of the world's most repressive nations, a new survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists has found. Iran, which has waged a massive, two-year-long crackdown on the independent press, and Cuba, which freed journalists from prison only to force them to leave their homeland, each sent 18 journalists into exile.

"I feel unstable because there is nothing for us here," said Cuban reporter Victor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, 59, who served more than seven years in prison on baseless charges before being freed last September and forced into exile in Spain. There, he has experienced significant professional and economic challenges, a common experience among the 67 journalists forced into exile worldwide in the past 12 months. "We don't even have our professional titles," Arroyo Carmona said. "We live in limbo."

Imprisonment, or the threat being jailed, was the leading cause of journalists leaving their home countries during the period examined by CPJ—June 1, 2010, to May 31, 2011—accounting for 82 percent of cases. Another 15 percent fled following physical attacks or threats of violence. Prolonged harassment such as frequent interrogations or surveillance drove 3 percent of journalists in the survey to leave their countries.

At least 649 journalists facing violence, imprisonment, and harassment have gone into exile worldwide since 2001, when CPJ launched its journalist assistance program and began keeping detailed exile records. The large majority, about 91 percent, have not been able to return home. Five countries—Ethiopia, Iran, Somalia, Iraq and Zimbabwe—account for nearly half the total number of journalists driven out of their countries over the past decade. CPJ's survey is based solely on cases it has documented, from which it derives global trends. Other groups using different criteria cite higher numbers of journalists in exile.

Arroyo Carmona said leaving Cuba was very difficult, but he had few options. After seeing his health worsen—he was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension, and pulmonary emphysema while serving his prison term in unsanitary and inhumane conditions—Arroyo Carmona felt compelled to take the government's offer of freedom in exchange for leaving the country. "What I was mostly concerned with was my wife's health and my own health, so I decided to leave," he said.

The Cuban government agreed to release Arroyo Carmona and more than 50 other political prisoners, including numerous journalists, as part of a July 2010 deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish government. But Havana imposed a high price on most detainees: They would have to leave Cuba for Spain immediately. As was the case with other freed detainees and their loved ones, Arroyo Carmona and his family had little opportunity to prepare for leaving home. "They had been given two hours to pack up our belongings and say good-bye before they were taken to Havana," Arroyo Carmona said of the six family members who left behind nearly everything to accompany him into exile. The family stayed briefly in a military compound before being flown to Spain on September 7, 2010.

Read the entire report here.

R.I.P. Yelena Bonner

Sunday, June 19, 2011
From The Washington Post:

Yelena Bonner dies; Russian rights activist and widow of Andrei Sakharov was 88

Yelena G. Bonner, the Russian human rights activist who was the widow of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Andrei D. Sakharov and came under repression by the secret police, died of heart failure in Boston on Saturday, according to the Associated Press.

Mrs. Bonner, decorated for valor and wounds during World War II, was 88. She had been hospitalized since Feb. 21, her daughter Tatiana Yankelevich told the AP.

Mrs. Bonner was a founder of one of the most active rights groups in the Soviet dissident movement of the 1970s, the Helsinki Monitoring Committee. The organization, which for a time disbanded in 1982 after most of its members were jailed for political crimes against the state, sought to publicize Soviet violations of human rights guarantees made when Moscow signed the 1975 Helsinki Agreement on European Cooperation and Security.

The Helsinki Act recognized Soviet hegemony in Eastern Europe in return for Soviet assurance to nurture fundamental freedoms, such as free speech, assembly and religion.

The Helsinki Act caused numerous unofficial rights groups to form, and they became an unusual phenomenon in the life of the Soviet capital in the mid-1970s. There were groups delving into invalids' rights, religious oppression, political abuse of psychiatry, workers' rights and emigration demands.

Mrs. Bonner signed hundreds of zayevlenie, or statements, supporting victims of KGB reprisals. She and her husband traveled through Siberia and remote parts of Russia, visiting courtrooms and jails to aid imprisoned activists.

By the decade's end, however, many activists were in prison or labor camps. The luckier were expelled from Russia or sent into internal exile far from Moscow. Mr. Sakharov was arrested in January 1980, and was confined to Gorky, 250 miles east of Moscow. Mrs. Bonner had a special status as wife of Mr. Sakharov, the father of the Soviet hydrogen bomb. She was allowed to travel to Moscow until May 1984, when the KGB detained her in Gorky on allegations she had committed anti-state crimes.

During a period of reform under Mikhail Gorbachev, the couple was allowed to return to Moscow in 1986, where they pressed on with their calls for greater freedom and revived the monitoring committee.

Mrs. Bonner's activism entered a new phase after Mr. Sakharov died in 1989 and the Soviet Union collapsed two years later.

She went on to promote human rights in the post-Soviet era by challenging President Boris Yeltsin's and President Vladi­mir Putin's government.

When a petition circulated in 2010 calling for Putin to step down, Mrs. Bonner was among the first to sign it.

Name That Dissident

The Miami Herald ran a story today entitled, "Wikileaks: Few Cubans Can Name U.S.-Backed Dissidents."

The title alone indicates heavy spin -- for the "U.S.-backed" label is irrelevant (at best) and malicious (at worst).

Moreover, the facts don't support the title, nor the spin.

The story is about a State Department cable from the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (USINT) -- released by Wikileaks -- which analyzes a 2008 unscientific survey conducted amongst a group of Cubans seeking to emigrate.

Over half of those surveyed recognized the name of at least one prominent Cuban pro-democracy leader.

The dissident with the highest name I.D. was Marth Beatriz Roque (43%), followed by Oswaldo Paya (29%) and Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" (22%).

It's important to note that those surveyed were merely in the application phase of their migration process and that the first tier of USINT employees they interact with are Cuban nationals contracted from Castro's state-employment agency. Therefore, the numbers are likely to be artificially weighed down by a fear-factor.

Despite this, the fact that over 50% recognized at least one pro-democracy leader is actually quite impressive considering the Castro regime's absolute monopoly over all means of communication.

Remember -- Barack Obama's name I.D. was barely over 50% when he began his 2008 campaign for President of the United States, while enjoying the benefits of a free media.

Thus, imagine the spike in the name I.D. of these pro-democracy leaders as new technologies continue to expand and after the high-profile confrontations of 2010 -- pursuant to the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the hunger strike of Guillermo Farinas.

And if dissidents had access to the island's national media networks -- it would be game over.

Of course, Castro knows that (hence the incessant censorship and repression).

It's too bad USINT and The Miami Herald doesn't.