Grant Valexi Villasuso Asylum

Saturday, February 25, 2012
Please sign this petition:

On Saturday February 18th, Cuban political activist Valexi Villasuso was detained by the Panamanian authorities at the Panama City Airport, while attempting to enter the Panama territory to continue his journey to the United States of America.

Villasuso is the creator and Chief Editor of Arrebatus.com, which was the first website of political opinion inside the island of Cuba. Villasuso is also a respected microbiologist that worked for the Pedro Kouri Institute of Tropical Medicine in Cuba until the government's repression forced him to abandon the country. The Panamanian authorities sent him back on Tuesday February 21st to the island of Saint Martin. Currently we do NOT know where he is being held, as he has not being able to communicate. If the local authorities initiate a process for his deportation to Cuba, it would mean indefinite imprisonment without trial for Villasuso once he arrives to the island.

Political prisoners in Cuba are confined to share small cells with common criminals and are subjected to torture, including corporal punishment and excessive use of force, sleep deprivation and sensory deprivation. Many are fed rotten food, which leads to food poisoning and dehydration, and in some cases death, because they are denied adequate medical attention.

If a scientist like Valexi Villasuso, whose only "sin" is to have raised his voice against the Cuban regime is deported, he will be subjected to endure the most flagrant violations of his basic human rights.

In the name of freedom, we are gathering as many signatures as possible, so that the government of the United States of America intervenes in this case and grants Valexi Villasuso political asylum.

Add your voice and DEMAND the government of the United States of America to TAKE ACTION in defense of Valexi Villasuso's human rights.

Quote of the Year

Friday, February 24, 2012
"First human rights, and then commerce."

-- Angel Moya, former political prisoner of the "Black Spring," tells a visiting U.S. Congressional delegation in Havana, Diario de Cuba, 2/25/12

Wanted for Murder

From the final judgment by Senior U.S. District Judge Lawrence King in the civil lawsuit against the Castro regime and the Cuban Air Force (FAR):

The government of Cuba, on February 24th 1996, in outrageous contempt for international law and basic human rights, murdered four human beings in international airspace over the Florida Straits. The victims were Brothers to the Rescue pilots, flying two civilian unarmed planes on a routine humanitarian mission, searching for rafters in the waters between Cuba and the Florida Keys.

As the civilian planes flew over international waters, a Russian built MiG 29 of the Cuban Air Force, without warning, reason, or provocation blasted the defenseless planes out of the sky with sophisticated air-to-air missiles in two separate attacks. The pilots and their aircraft disintegrated in the mid-air explosions following the impact of the missiles. The destruction was so complete that the four bodies were never recovered.


As regards the criminal case:

In August 2003, a federal grand jury returned the indictment against General Ruben Martinez Puente, who at the time headed the Cuban Air Force, and fighter pilots Lorenzo Alberto Perez-Perez and Francisco Perez-Perez. The defendants were charged with four counts of murder, one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals and two counts of destruction of aircraft.

Click here for their current whereabouts.

Menendez: Bring Fugitive to Justice

Menendez: Let's Bring Fugitive to Justice

Asks FBI to Add Joanne Chesimard, Killer of NJ State Trooper, to Top Ten, Top 25 Most Wanted Terrorists

Washington – Following a request by the New Jersey State Attorney General and the New Jersey State Police, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez today wrote FBI Director Robert Mueller to express his strong support for adding Joanne Chesimard to both the FBI Top Ten and Top 25 Wanted Terrorists lists, as well as increasing the reward for her capture from $1 million to $5 million. In May of 1973, Chesimard and 2 accomplices executed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a routine traffic stop. She was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. On November 2, 1979, Chesimard escaped from a New Jersey prison and is currently a fugitive in Cuba.

Full text of the letter follows:

February 22, 2012

Director Robert S. Mueller, III
Federal Bureau of Investigation
J. Edgar Hoover Building
935 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20535

Dear Director Mueller:

I write to request your continued support and commitment in the effort to bring Joanne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur, to justice. I strongly support the requests by the New Jersey State Attorney General and the New Jersey State Police to add Joanne Chesimard to the FBI’s Top Ten and the Top 25 Most Wanted Terrorists lists and to increase the reward for her capture from $1 million to $5 million.

As you know, Joanne Chesimard and two accomplices executed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster during a traffic stop in 1973. Chesimard was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. On November 2, 1979, Chesimard escaped from a New Jersey prison and is currently a fugitive in Cuba.

Adding Chesimard to your Top Ten list and the Top 25 Most Wanted Terrorists lists would very much aid local New Jersey law enforcement in their efforts to finally bring Joanne Chesimard to justice. Given that law enforcement has worked collaboratively on this effort for nearly 33 years, I feel these final steps are necessary to ensure that Chesimard is captured and returned to the United States to serve her sentence.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my request.

Sincerely,

ROBERT MENENDEZ

While Leahy and Shelby Were in Cuba

When Amnesty International releases two Cuba ALERTS in one day -- the first on missing pro-democracy leader Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and the second below -- it should really surpass concern.

Makes you wonder whether U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Richard Shelby (R-AL), who were in Cuba interceding with dictator Raul Castro on behalf of American hostage Alan Gross, were aware of what was taking place in their surroundings.

From Amnesty International:

Authorities prevent activists from commemorating death of dissident

Authorities in Cuba are preventing members of the women's organisation “Ladies in White” from entering a building in downtown Havana for an event commemorating the second anniversary of the death of activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

Several “Ladies in White”, who campaign for the release of political prisoners, already assembled in the building told Amnesty International they fear they may be detained if they try to leave.

Javier Zuniga, Special Advisor at Amnesty International, said:

“It is unacceptable that the Cuban authorities would not allow human rights activists from remembering one of their colleagues in peace. Authorities must urgently stop harassing activists and preventing any of the ‘Ladies in White’ from celebrating the memory of Orlando Zapata.”

Women have travelled to Havana from across Cuba to attend the event. According to information gathered by Amnesty International the Cuban authorities have diverted traffic from passing in front of the headquarters and have stationed police officers on the four corners of the block where they are located. They are checking the identification cards of all pedestrians passing through the area.

Prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on 23 February 2012 after a 86-day-long hunger strike.

Leading Dissident Arrested and Disappeared

Thursday, February 23, 2012
From Amnesty International:

URGENT ACTION

Ex-Prisoner of Conscience Believed Detained

Former prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García’s whereabouts are unknown following his alleged arrest in central Havana, Cuba, on 21 February.


Former prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García, who is on conditional release from prison, is believed to have been re-arrested in central Havana on 21 February. He had travelled to Havana from Santiago de Cuba province to meet with diplomats, human rights activists and dissidents in connection with his work as the coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), an umbrella group of dissident organizations based in eastern Cuba.

On 21 February, José Daniel Ferrer García was travelling by taxi with Elizardo Sánchez, coordinator of the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and Reconciliation (Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional, CCDHRN), whose office he had just visited. Elizardo Sánchez exited the taxi in the central neighbourhood of Vedado and five minutes later received a text message from José Daniel Ferrer García which stated he was being detained by police. On 22 February, the Elizardo Sánchez contacted the police information service and was informed that there was no record of José Daniel Ferrer García being held in any detention facility.

There has been no news of his whereabouts since then.

José Daniel Ferrer García was granted conditional release in March 2011, having served eight of his 25 year sentence. Under the terms of his release, he could be sent back to prison to serve out the remainder of his sentence - 16 years. Amnesty International believes his arrest is an attempt to repress the peaceful dissident activities he and members of UNPACU are undertaking in eastern Cuba.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Prisoner of conscience José Daniel Ferrer García was granted conditional release in March 2011 following eight years imprisonment. He was one of 75 people who were arrested and sentenced following a crackdown on Cuban dissidence in March 2003. All 75 were adopted as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, as they had acted non-violently and were imprisoned under Cuban legislation which illegitimately criminalizes political dissent. José Daniel Ferrer García was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment in relation to his participation in the Varela Project, which aimed at requesting a national referendum on democratic reforms. Article 31.1.4 of the Cuban Criminal Code states that conditional release allows a prisoner to see out the remainder of their sentence outside prison provided they demonstrate “good behaviour” (“buena conducta”).

The Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) is an umbrella group of dissident organizations, based primarily in Santiago de Cuba, but also in neighbouring provinces of eastern Cuba. UNPACU seeks democratic change in Cuba via non-violent means.

Since UNPACU’s creation in mid-2011, its members have faced constant harassment and intimidation form the Cuban authorities, including arbitrary detention. One of UNPACU’s members, prisoner of conscience Wilman Villar Mendoza died in January 2012 following a hunger strike in protest at his four-year prison sentence following a summary trial. This repression is part of a general crackdown against dissidents in the eastern provinces of Cuba which has gathered pace since mid-2011.

We Will Never Forget


Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 1967-2010

Chavez Transfers (Stolen) Gold to Cuba

One of the lessons Venezuela's Hugo Chavez learned from the final days of his Libyan ally Muammar Ghaddafi was not to store his (stolen) wealth abroad, for it could be frozen amid sanctions.

Thus, Chavez quickly repatriated billions worth of gold bullion back to Venezuela from European banks.

At the time, Chavez stated, "the gold is returning to where it was always meant to be: the vaults of the Central Bank of Venezuela."

Now, with his looming health and electoral challenges, it appears Chavez doesn't believe the gold bullion is "safe" (within his grasp) in Venezuela either -- even though it belongs to the Venezuelan people.

So, according to Venezuelan journalist Nelson Bocaranda, Chavez has begun transferring gold bullion to Cuba.

Just wait until the Castro brothers get their hands on it -- if they haven't already.

Protest at the Cuban Interests Section

Wednesday, February 22, 2012
On Friday, February 24th 2012, exiled Cubans, ex-political prisoners, and human rights activists will be protesting in front of the Cuban Interests Section and at various other points in Washington D.C.:

· Because of the increased repression against pro-democracy activists in Cuba

· Because of the assassination of Wilman Villar Mendoza another recent death of a peaceful activist along with that of Laura Pollan and Orlando Zapata Tamayo

· To commemorate all those who died in hunger strikes in Cuba’s political prisons like Pedro Luis Boitel along with the thousands of other patriots who have been assassinated by the Castro regime like the Brothers to the Rescue who were murdered in mid air while on a humanitarian search and rescue mission on February 24, 1996


Cuban exiles from Miami, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut will be participating in the demonstrations (many of them ex-political prisoners). They will be dressed in black and carrying photos of some of those assassinated by the Cuban government. A coffin with the names of more than 10,000 victims will be displayed.

The demonstrations will begin at 10 a.m. in front of the Cuban Interest Section. Then, at 1:30 p.m., there will be a march down 16th Street to the White House, where a silent protest will be held from 2-4 p.m. Finally, from 4:30 to 8 p.m. the demonstration will move to Union Station, Washington’s main train terminal, where a film about the reality of the Cuban people will be aired.

Simultaneous demonstrations will also take place in other countries including but not limited to Canada, Venezuela, Chile, Italy and Spain.

Is Obama Siding With the Castro Regime?

By Ana Margarita Martinez in The Miami Herald:

Mr. President, why side with Cuba, against U.S. justice?

While President Barack Obama is in South Florida on a fund-raising mission, his Department of Justice has made its own mission to trample on the rights of a U.S. citizen, justifying spy actions, sexual battery and torture at the behest of the Cuban government and dismissing the 2001 existing judgment against the terrorist state.

Ironically, while President Obama courts voters and seeks campaign contributions at a fundraiser at the Biltmore Hotel, his administration has sided with a government that is on the State Department’s list of terrorist nations, and against a U.S. citizen who was victimized by a Castro agent on U.S. territory.

I respectfully ask the media to question President Obama on how he can court women voters when he denies a female U.S. citizen her basic right to justice.

Unlike Cuba, the United States is a country of laws where those who do wrong must compensate their victims for the harm they suffer. A judge awarded a judgment on my complaint against the Castro regime and ordered Cuba to pay damages to compensate me for the harm done to me by Cuba’s agent. Yet the DOJ intervened on behalf of the Cuban government, derailing my attempt to attain justice and finalize this difficult chapter.

My 2001 judgment states: “Spy actions at the behest of the Cuban government constituted a sexual battery on Ana Margarita Martinez.” And the testimony of U.S. Rep. Peter Deutsch noted: “Cuba is a terrorist state and the action ordered by them against Ana Margarita was torture.”

Cuba does not recognize basic human rights. It does not recognize our courts. Hence, while the Cuban government hid from the recent federal proceedings, the United States intervened claiming that my garnishment would interfere with flights to Cuba and with U.S.-Cuba relations. It is naive to believe that the Cuban government would forego hundreds of millions of dollars that bolster its economy and finance its stranglehold over the Cuban population for the amount of my judgment.

The United States’ strength since its founding has been its role as the world’s front-runner in the protection of individual rights. It is inconceivable that our leaders have made such a historical policy shift. Our government’s first responsibility should be to its citizens. I am shocked and disappointed that the Obama administration has taken a position that the rights of a U.S. citizen should be subjugated to placate a brutal dictatorship.

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington al Mundo" for a conversation with U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL).

As a member of the powerful House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations, we'll discuss American hostages in Cuba and Egypt; the current crises in Iran and Syria; and President Obama's foreign policy budget priorities.

"From Washington al Mundo" is broadcast live on Sirus-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST) and rebroadcast on Friday from 4-5 p.m. (EST).

Is Brazil Selling Arms to Castro?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012
It's reprehensible enough that Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff ignored dissidents during her recent trip to Cuba, but selling arms to Castro's military dictatorship would surpass outrage.

From UPI:

Brazil is moving toward implementing plans to develop its defense industry market in Latin America and the Caribbean [...]

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and her predecessor, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, both outlined a future for Brazil's defense industries that puts emphasis on building regional markets and replacing major international suppliers of aviation and defense inventories.

Rousseff secured partnerships with Cuba to help its sanctions-ridden economy transform itself into a market economy. Close collaboration in aviation, defense and security industries was discussed when the Brazilian president met with Cuban President Raul Castro, Fidel Castro and senior government officials.


Must Read: Gross's Wife Responds to AP Story

From The Jewish Journal:

Judy [Gross] addressed the AP story’s claims for the first time on Sunday in a breakfast with congregants at Congregation Chizuk Amuno in Baltimore.

“To suggest that Alan had any ulterior motive other than to help Cuba’s small Jewish community improve its access to information through the Internet and Intranet is categorically false,” she said in prepared remarks shared exclusively with JTA. “Unfortunately, in countries like Cuba, the free flow of information is forbidden, and therefore it should come as no surprise that Alan had to be careful and discreet while he was in Cuba."

She added, “That members of the media and the blogosphere continue to debate and analyze Alan’s work—a discussion in which the participants openly speculate as to his motives and his actions, despite having never met the man or even spoken with him—while he rots in a Cuban prison without the opportunity to freely and openly respond, is deplorable.”

Judy Gross described her husband’s mission as setting up unfettered Internet access to communicate with Jews outside Cuba and an Intranet so the communities—some in remote areas—could communicate with one another, “allowing them to share things like recipes, prayers and even sports scores.”

She described testimony at Gross’ trial by an elderly Cuban Jewish man who needed assistance in getting to the stand.

“When the prosecutor asked him what Alan showed him on the Internet, he became emotional and said, ‘We saw the world!’” she recounted. “A bit taken aback by this response, the prosecutor asked the witness to explain further. He said that Alan used the Internet to show them places they had never seen before—pictures of the Western Wall in Jerusalem and the city of London. Clearly he did so through Google Earth, something we take so much for granted in our country.”

Blessed Are the Persecuted

"Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:10

Even if the Pope ignores them.

Over the weekend, over 30 Ladies in White were brutally arrested by the Castro regime.

One of them, Taimí Vega Biscet, tragically suffered a miscarriage when intercepted by police forces.

Their crime?

Traveling to the Shrine of El Cobre, where Pope Benedict XVI will be celebrating Mass during his March visit to Cuba.

For months, the Ladies in White and their families have been subject to escalating violence: interference of their telephone communications; blackmail; constant verbal and physical harassment (including sexual molestation); threats to their lives; threats of losing their jobs; short term arrests; brutal beatings and prison confinements in inhumane conditions.

Meanwhile, their homes are subject to constant surveillance; forced entry; barricades to prevent their entering and leaving; days of attacks by pro-regime mobs, who scream insults through megaphones, throw stones, paint, etc. They are prohibited from traveling freely within their own country and are forced back to their home provinces any time they venture away.

So surely the Vatican, or Pope Benedict XVI himself, has expressed concern and interest in meeting with the Ladies in White while he is on the island.

Sadly, no.

Instead, the Vatican announced this weekend that the Pope "wants to see" Cuban dictator Fidel Castro (if his health permits).


The Ladies in White will undoubtedly be rewarded by the kingdom of heaven. And that's comforting.

But shouldn't Peter's successor provide them with some comfort from their earthly hell?


(In contrast, kudos to the local clergymen in El Cobre that sought to protect some of The Ladies in White over the weekend).

A Wikitravel Cuba Clarification

Monday, February 20, 2012
Here's what Wikitravel currently says about Cuba:

Before the 1959 Revolution, Cuba was a popular tourist destination for United States citizens, mainly due to the large number of casinos catering to gamblers put up by the American mafia. Revolutionaries claim the Batista dictatorship was a government that neglected many of its own citizens health and welfare in order to maintain itself in power. Many Americans had beach homes during the summer and rich American companies owned large factories and land with the cooperation of Fulgenicio Batista, the ruling military dictator. Since the Revolution, Cuba has been subjected to a trade and economic embargo by the United States. Since 2009, US citizens with relatives living in Cuba have been allowed to visit Cuba.

After 1959, Cuban tourism was mostly for Cubans only, and the facilities were not renewed until the 1990s, when Cuba lost financial backing from the defunct Soviet Union and opened its doors to foreign tourism. Now many European, Canadian, and even American visitors come to the island. In the typical tourist regions like Varadero and Holguin a lot of modern 3-star to 5-star hotels are available, while in less popular tourist regions visitors are still able to rent rooms in many Cuban homes (called casas particulares).


And here's a clarification that Yale University Professor Carlos Eire has submitted to Wikitravel (and posted on Babalu Blog):

Before the 1959 Revolution, Cuba was a popular tourist destination for United States citizens, as well as for Europeans and other Latin Americans. Although there were a few casinos in Havana with connections to the American Mafia, they played a very small role in the Cuban tourist industry. Revolutionaries claim the Batista dictatorship was a government that neglected many of its own citizens health and welfare in order to maintain itself in power, but the Revolutionaries themselves can be accused of treating their own people even more shabbily by setting up a tourist industry in which apartheid is practiced: setting up facilities for foreigners that are inaccessible to Cubans and unaffordable in a country where everyone earns about 20 dollars a month.

Though a very small number of Americans owned property in Cuba before Fidel Castro came to power, nearly all tourist facilities in Cuba nowadays are funded by foreign hotel companies – mostly European – and the profits go straight into the Ministry of Tourism, which is operated by Cuba’s military forces. Since the Revolution, Cuba has been subjected to a trade and economic embargo by the United States, but that so-called embargo no longer exists, in practice. The United States is currently Cuba’s second or third trading partner, and it supplies much of the food and medicine available in Cuba. Since 2009, US citizens with relatives living in Cuba have been allowed to visit Cuba.

After 1959, Cuban tourism was mostly for Cubans who were officials of the Communist Party, and the facilities were not renewed until the 1990s, when Cuba lost financial backing from the defunct Soviet Union and opened its doors to foreign tourism through foreign investment. Now many European, Canadian, and even American visitors come to the island. In the typical tourist regions like Varadero and Holguin a lot of modern 3-star to 5-star hotels are available, while in less popular tourist regions visitors are still able to rent rooms in many Cuban homes (called casas particulares). All of the hotel and resort facilities are off-limits to the vast majority of Cubans, due to their seclusion, and the fact that Cubans cannot afford them, or gain access to transportation.

Many human rights activists in Cuba and abroad have called for a boycott of tourism to Cuba, due to the fact that it perpetuates an apartheid system very similar to that of the old South Africa, and also because of the Castro regime’s innumerable human rights violations, which continue to oppress the Cuban people 53 years after Fidel Castro came to power.


Any questions?

Raul Keeps Looking Backward

Yesterday, General Raul Castro named his Minister of the Economy, Adel Yzquierdo Rodríguez, as the eighth Vice-President of the Council of Ministers.

Thus, Cuba, which has no elected President, now has eight appointed Vice-Presidents.

Ridiculous.

Yzquierdo Rodríguez is 66-years old.

The Council of Ministers is led by the 80-year old General Castro
and followed by Vice-Presidents José Ramón Machado Ventura, Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, José Ramón Fernández Álvarez, Ricardo Cabrisas Ruíz, Ulises Rosales del Toro, Antonio Enrique Lussón Battle y Marino Alberto Murillo Jorge.

Five of the eight Vice-Presidents are also at least 8o-years old.

Obviously, Castro knows his regime has no future.


On This President's Day

"If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

-- George Washington, first President of the United States of America, (1732-1799)

Today on "From Washington al Mundo"

Tune in today to "From Washington Al Mundo" for an analysis of current events in Iraq and Afghanistan with Marco Vicenzino of the London-based Global Strategy Project.

"From Washington al Mundo" is broadcast live on Sirius-XM's Cristina Radio (Channel 146) from 4-5 p.m. (EST).

More Repression Caught on Tape

Sunday, February 19, 2012
Last week, two Cuban pro-democracy activists took to the streets of the eastern city of Guantanamo to protest against the Castro dictatorship.

Ironically, one carried a sign that read "no more police violence."

Fast forward to the 4:00 minute and watch Castro's state security sweep in and violently take them away.



Video courtesy of Hablemos Press.

Castro Keeps Closing Doors

By Isbel Diaz Torres in Havana Times:

Democratizing Cuba? (Part II)

My previous post, “Democratizing Cuba (I),” concluded with the expression “behind closed doors.” As this is so closely related to the topic I’m dealing with, I’d like to make some comments about the discussions that took place during the recent National Conference of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC).

The first is that — unlike what happened with last year’s famous “Guidelines” document, around which mass national debate was promoted beforehand — such discussions didn’t happen this time.

Even though discussion of the “Guidelines” wasn’t structured so that rank-and-file assemblies could actually change its content (nothing of what was raised at my job was later reflected in the final version), at least people could vent.

This time was it worse. The discussions were excluded from the majority of the Cuban population, who aren’t members of the PCC or the Young Communist League (UJC) – though we’re subordinate to the party by virtue of Article 5 of the Cuban Constitution.


That was the first closed door.

Next, the changes made to the conference’s draft document were reported numerically [i.e. “…16 guidelines had been moved to other points, 94 remained unchanged, 181 were modified in content and 36 new guidelines were incorporated”], however no mention was made of the contents that were moved, modified or added.

In other words, if 300 commas were changed and 200 adjectives replaced, for those people who didn’t participate in the conference it was the same as them having changed the single-party system to a multi-party one. We simply didn’t know what the members changed in the discussions.

That was another locked door.

Finally, the discussions in plenary sessions were televised days after these took place to allow time for any necessary editing. I learned about some comments made in some critical discussions that occurred there, but apparently our people aren’t prepared to see such things.

They did, however, allow us to see a few snippets of Mariela Castro, who they certainly didn’t allow in as a delegate; she was a guest, which isn’t the same.

Mariela argued for people not to be discriminated against because of their gender identity, an issue that’s not reflected in the laws, nor in the constitution, and still not in the goals of PCC either.

Their rights were left “pending,” just like what occurred in last year’s party congress concerning the issue of workers’ control of state enterprises.

Added to all this was our not being able to see the full debate. Rather, we had to suffer through unfortunate, uninformed, unsupportive, and insensitive addresses by City Historian Eusebio Leal and writer/ethnographer Miguel Barnet.

Nonetheless, a brief phrase by Politburo member Esteban Lazo made me raise an eyebrow.

The party leader said he “did in fact know” the number of suggestions made on the point concerning discrimination.

That revelation made me wonder: How was it that he knew but the rest of us didn’t? Him having the privilege to the key to that door didn’t seem either fair or democratic.

Days later I read an article saying there were 11,285 suggestions, but they didn’t even say how many were for or against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

This indicated yet another one of the problems of democratic practices here: if this involves the power of the majority over the minority, then they shouldn’t have approved a point with so much opposition. Yet fortunately that didn’t occur.

Rights are important, even those of one man or one woman, and this includes those who have a gender identity that’s different from the one arbitrarily assigned by society.

It’s obvious that there’s a long way to go for democracy to flourish here. It just seems that neither last year’s 6th Communist Party Congress nor the recent National Conference of the Party are suitable places for it.

They have too many closed doors.


A Challenge for Chavez Apologists

From The New York Sun's Editorial Board:

The Smell of Sulfur

It’s hard to imagine how the apologists for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela are going to manage to put the gloss on the attacks being made by his regime on the new figure emerging in the opposition, Henrique Capriles Radonski. Mr. Capriles is a Catholic whose maternal grandparents were Jews from Poland. He is emerging as a challenger to succeed the cancer-ridden president. But now Mr. Capriles, governor of the state of Miranda, is being made the target of the kind of crude anti-Semitism that one normally associates with an earlier time.

A broadcast called “The Enemy Is Zionism” on the main and official government radio station in Caracas said that Mr. Capriles had worked for private sector firms “linked to the interests of the Zionist bourgeoisie.” It calls him part of a “fascist and paramilitary sect” in which “religious rites were practiced” and plans were laid to attack “everything that did not represent the national Aryan race.” It accused him of covertly representing Zionism, which, it said, “is hiding behind a religious and nationalist discourse” and “is the owner of most financial institutions in the world, controlling almost 80% of the global economy and communications industry almost entirely, while maintaining decision-making positions within the Department of State and European powers.”

The government radio charges that Mr. Capriles recently met with the Confederation of Jewish Associations of Venezuela, where, it says, they talked of, among other things, restoring diplomatic relations with Israel. It accuses the confederation of having “no shame” in its pro-Zionist views. Yet it it was only a year or so ago that Mr. Chavez and his mentor, Fidel Castro, were trying to convince the world that they had undergone a change of heart in respect of the Jews. “We respect and love the Jewish people,” Mr. Chavez was quoted by Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic as saying at an international tourism fair at Caracas. Mr. Chavez professed his affection for the Jews shortly after Mr. Goldberg reported on his visit to Cuba, where he got the Cuban leader to chastise President Ahmadinejad for denying the Holocaust.

At the time — that was in the fall of 2010 — Mr. Goldberg reported that, according to people he’d been in touch with, Mr. Chavez’s entente was “a direct result of Fidel’s statement.” No doubt he was right about that. But to what — or whom — is one going to attribute the latest government broadcast? “Using anti-Semitism as a political weapon to intimidate, discredit and disparage has been a constant modus operandi by sectors of the Chavista movement,” an official of the American Jewish Committee in Washington, Dina Siegel Vann, is quoted by the Wall Street Journal as saying. “We were just waiting for the barrage to start.”

Our own instinct is that the new eruption of anti-Semtism by the Venezuela regime can be likened to a kind of death-bed confession by Mr. Chavez, who once mocked President Bush for leaving the smell of sulfur in the United Nations but who is now no doubt, with the cancer upon him, sniffing the early vapors of Hell. So he’s letting it be known — he is, in fact, hostile to Israel. No wonder his regime has long partnered with the Iranians. One analyst who has been following the story, Joel Hirst, who is a fellow of the George W. Bush Institute, characterizes Caracas under Chavez as the “Beirut of the 21st century” and a terrorist “blackout zone protected by the Venezuelan government.”

We have written before in these columns about President Ahmadinejad’s machinations in Venezuela, including in an editorial issued in January 2007 called “Mr. Monroe, Call Your Office.” Also in our pages that month was an important and early piece by the executive director of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, warning that Latin America had become a focal point of Iran’s interests and naming Cuba, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, with the last being of “greatest concern” because of “its size and its leader’s proclaimed ambitions.”

Mr. Harris cited the recently released report of the special prosecutor in Argentina, Alberto Nisman, who had investigated the bombing of the Jewish Center at Buenos Aires that, in July 1994, had slain 85 persons. The Nisman report confirmed what had been long-suspected, Mr. Harris noted, that the plot was hatched at Iran. In 2009, we issued an editorial in respect of the remarks made in 2009 by the former district attorney of New York County, Robert Morgenthau, at the Brookings Institution. He detailed how Messrs. Chavez and Ahmadinejad have “created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus” and warned that “now is the time to develop policies “to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.”