Image of the Day: Religious Persecution in Cuba

Saturday, October 5, 2013
The picture below is from today's "act of repudiation" by the Castro regime against the home of Reverend Yorvis A. Bravo Denis, head of Cuba's Apostolic Reform Church in Camaguey.

Inside the home were Rev. Bravo's family and other members of the protestant Church, including three young children.

For months, the Castro regime has been threatening to evict Rev. Bravo from his home due to the religious services he hosts there.

Below is also a picture of Rev. Bravo and his family.

Look at both pictures closely and ask yourself:

Why does the Castro dictatorship feel so threatened by this young religious leader?


Quote of the Week: On Cuban Defectors

I don't think you'll find a player that will tell you that they regret leaving Cuba. Even if they end up working at a [supermarket].
-- Jaime Torres, baseball agent who has represented several Cuban defectors, including the Chicago White Sox's Alexei Ramirez and the Dodgers' Yasiel Puig, LA Times, 10/5/13

A Campaign of Terror Against Damaris Moya Portieles

Damaris Moya Portieles is a Cuban democracy leader, who has been the victim of a brutal campaign of repression aimed at terrorizing her and her family for her peaceful opposition activities.

Last night, she was beaten unconscious in front of her two small children (a 2-year old boy and 6-year old girl) and taken away by Castro's secret police.

Damaris is a leader of the Central Opposition Coalition and of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights. These two organizations, led respectively by Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" and his wife Yris
Perez Aguilera, head a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience against Cuba's dictatorship.

For the past three years, Damaris has been harassed, physically beaten and arrested by the Castro regime's secret police on numerous occasions.

On one occasion in January 2013, Damaris was sexually violated during the arrest, when she was forcefully held down, stripped naked and had a pencil introduced into her genitalia.  The authorities claimed they were "searching for a cell phone."

Since August 4th, when Antunez and Yris Perez Aguilera left Cuba to begin their U.S. visit, the campaign of repression against Damaris has intensified dramatically. In their absence, the Cuban authorities seek to dismantle their organizations by violently targeting Damaris.

Thus, in the past month, the political police has forcefully broken into her home on three occasions and destroyed her belongings; her two small children have also been physically assaulted and arrested multiple times; her 6-year old daughter was sexually threatened by a secret police agent named Eric Francis Aquino Yera; and six "act of repudiation" have been organized against her home, a tactic employed by the Cuban authorities where mobs are brought in to hurl insults, throw debris and vandalize her home.

This campaign against Damaris is now systematic.  

Yet, she remains relentless.

#StandWithDamaris

A Guide to Raul's Approved "Self-Employment" @PeriodicoGuama

Below is a preview from the Cuban satire site, Guama, which has posted a picture collage of the "self-employment" practices allowed by dictator Raul Castro.

See them all here.


Cholera (and Castro's Cover-Up) on the Rise

Friday, October 4, 2013
The Castro regime has been forced to confirm over 678 cases of cholera on the island, including three deaths.

This information was included this week in a Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) epidemiological alert.

Just over a year ago, the Castro regime had falsely claimed that cholera had been eradicated on the island.

It wasn't until independent journalist Calixto Martinez Arias, of Hablemos Press, broke news of the cholera outbreak and Castro's cover-up, that the regime's hand was forced.

In retaliation, Martinez Arias was arbitrarily imprisoned for eight months, where he was recognized by Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience.

The Castro regime's numbers are still low, unconfirmed and manipulated.

Just last month, independent journalists reported on 400 cases of cholera in the small town of Guines alone.

Moreover, last week alone, five deaths from cholera were reported in the infamous Combinado del Este prison.

The cover-up continues.

Tweet of the Day

By Spanish journalist Hermann Tertsch:

Shameful: The [Spanish] government won't pardon Carromero, upholds the sentence of the dictatorship's judges and sabotages the Paya family's search for the truth.  

Caught on Film: Cuban Democracy Leader Arrested

Thursday, October 3, 2013
With a hidden camera, independent journalists from Hablemos Press captured the arrest of Cuban democracy leader, Pavel Herrera Hernandez.

First, watch Castro's secret police stake out the neighborhood throughout the night.

Then, Herrera is followed and intercepted as he leaves his home in the morning.

Herrera was heading to Santa Rita Church to join The Ladies in White.

Click here to watch or see below:

Forgive Them Lord

An excerpt from democracy leader Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo's artful column on Cuba's Catholic Church in Diario de Cuba:

Forgive them Lord, for they know not what they do

It doesn't matter that the President of the International Justice and Peace Commission of the U.S. Conference of Bishops, Monsignor Richar E. Pates, Bishop of Des Moines, asked the Obama Administration to surrender to the "change-fraud" of the Castro regime and normalize economic, diplomatic and political relations with the "Worst of the Antilles." It doesn't matter that this gentleman ignored the questions posed by Cuban protestant leaders Mario Félix Lleonart, Yoaxis Marcheco and Omar Gude Pérez, which questioned the religious apartheid of Cuba. It doesn't matter that he remains silent regarding the ship-bomb contraband that Cuba was trafficking to North Korea through the Panama Canal, in order to stir up some international conflict somewhere.

What matters is that these U.S. ecclesiastical leaders are opposed to the status quo within their own national borders. As opposed to the Cuban Catholic Church, which barely proposes -- or better yet, composes -- a scenario where the Cuban people can finally have their sequestered capitalism, but with the despotic bonus of all their human rights subjected.

The pastors of Christ on the island had -- and still have -- the word, but they have been overcome by the fear to employ it like fathers to lift the nauseating pain in our hearts. He who remains silent, concedes. They behave more like the servants of the Son of Horror, than the Son of Man. They are not shepherds by any stretch, apart from their cynical millenary smile and the sarcastic tone with which they share the host with wicked hands. Their fear of martyrdom is already opening the criminal road to action, to the opportunism of power and to the debacle of the desperate. Listen to the silence from the bugle. The road to a mournful future is paved by the fossilized loyalty of today.

Freedom House: Cuba Remains a Major Internet Freedom Violator

Freedom House has just released its Freedom on the Net 2013 report.

According to the report (and common sense), Cuba's "Internet Freedom Status" remains NOT FREE. 

Here are some 2012-2013 key developments:

  • Cuba’s eagerly anticipated high speed ALBA-1 fiber optic cable, which was expected to increase data transmission speeds on the internet 3000 fold, was connected in early 2013; however, access was limited to select government offices rather than being extended throughout Cuba.
  •  The government imposed tighter restrictions on e-mail in the workplace, installing a platform that blocks “chain letters critical of the government."
  • In 2012 and 2013, the government continued its practice of employing a “cyber militia” to slander dissident bloggers and to disseminate official propaganda.
  • Arbitrary detentions and intimidation of bloggers increased in late 2012.
  • Travel restrictions were loosened in early 2013 and some high-profile bloggers, such as Yoani Sánchez, were granted permission to leave Cuba for the first time in years.
It also reported:

Although the government appeared to loosen its restrictions on online media by unblocking a number of blogs in 2011, this period of opening was short-lived, as illustrated by a rash of arbitrary detentions in November and December 2012. Pro-government blogs that dared to be too critical of government policy were blocked, and phone numbers associated with the “speak-to-tweet” platform, widely used by activists to publicize human rights violations, were shut down. Such activity is not uncommon in Cuba; however, in 2013, the number of blocked websites remains more or less the same as it was in 2012. At least a dozen bloggers have been arrested, several nonviolent activists have been publicly beaten, and one citizen journalist was held without formal charges for six months before his eventual release. Surveillance remains extensive, extending to government-installed software designed to monitor and control office e-mail accounts as well as many of the island’s public internet access points.

Moreover:

Cuban legal structure is not favorable to internet freedom. Surveillance is widespread and dissident bloggers are subject to punishments ranging from fines and searches to confiscation of equipment and detentions. The constitution explicitly subordinates freedom of speech to the objectives of a socialist society, and freedom of cultural expression is guaranteed only if such expression is not contrary to the Revolution.

You can read the entire Cuba section here.

Case and Point on Cuba's Labor Violations

An excerpt from Professor Archibald Ritter's analysis of Castro's new Mariel "Export Processing Zone" (EPZ) in Cuba Standard:

[T]he major earner of foreign exchange for the government will be the hidden taxation involved in the hiring of labor. EPZ enterprises, like those in joint ventures will have to pay hard currency to a state company to cover the wages and salaries of Cuban workers at a rate around US$1:1 peso (CUP, non-convertible peso), while the relevant rate for Cuban citizens is 1:26. The government can then sell the hard currency (CUC, convertible pesos) at the rate of 1 CUC : 26CUP, meaning a profit on each CUC of 25 CUP. This profit to the government is in effect a 96-percent tax rate. This counterbalances to some extent the generosity of the rest of the tax regime for the EPZ firms.

In the words of Reuters correspondent Marc Frank: “However, one of the main complaints of foreign investors in Cuba has not changed: that they must hire and fire through a state-run labor company which pays employees in near worthless pesos while investors pay the company in hard currency. Investors complain they have little control over their labor force and must find ways to stimulate their workers, who often receive the equivalent of around $20 a month for services that the labor company charges up to 20 times more for.”

CHC EDITOR'S NOTE: This in clear violation of the International Labor Organization's Protection of Wages Convention (No. 95), which strictly prohibits the use of worthless legal tender, restrictions on a worker's freedom to dispose of wages and deductions made by any intermediary.

Brazilian Unions Challenge Exploitation of Cuban Doctors

Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Excerpt from NPR:

Brazilian medical unions are trying to mount a court challenge to the use of Cuban doctors [t]here.

Jose Roberto Murisset, the human rights secretary of the National Doctors Federation, says that the Cuban government takes most of the money that is paid for the doctors. The Brazilian government has also decreed that the Cuban doctors have no right to ask for asylum in Brazil.

"Brazil has strong labor rights, but these Cuban doctors don't have their rights guaranteed," he says.

The main bone of contention is that foreign doctors arriving under the new program don't have to take the Brazilian medical exam to practice. Murisset says that many of the doctors coming from abroad would fail the test and are underqualified.

"Maybe the government thinks that these regions don't need a full doctor. Maybe they think they need only a half doctor," he says.

Venezuela's Tragicomedy

By Frank Calzon in Americas Quarterly:

Comedy and Tragedy, Venezuelan-Style

Next up on the world’s stage of Theater of the Absurd: Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro. Like his predecessor, the late Hugo Chávez, Maduro has as his mentors—in things big and small—Fidel and Raul Castro of Cuba. Always the masters of deception, the Castro brothers were caught red-handed this summer trying to ship weapons to North Korea. Now it is Maduro whom might have been caught red-handed, or should we say “red-faced,” trying to sneak Cuban intelligence agents into the United States.

Maduro had planned a speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. He never made it. Traveling on Cubana Airlines with a Venezuelan delegation that included his wife, son and daughter-in-law, a hair dresser and a bevy of Cuban security experts carrying Venezuelan passports, his plane landed in Canada for refueling, on a return flight from China. ABC, Madrid’s daily broke the story reporting that the United States denied visas to the Cubans, part of Maduro’s entourage. But according to U.S. government sources, what happened was that Maduro ordered his aircraft “to turn away when the US wouldn’t give them assurances that they would not be denied entry.”  The State Department spokesman said that “No visas have been denied for the Venezuelan delegation to this year’s UN General Assembly.”

Maduro left in a fury vowing retaliation and “drastic actions.” Caracas’ El Universal quoted Maduro saying that “he dropped his trip to New York in order to safeguard his physical integrity.” El Universal also reported that the Venezuelan president “fingered former US officials Roger Noriega and Otto Reich for allegedly planning ‘a provocation’”. The possibility of Noriega and Reich, two Republican political appointees, directing any initiative of any kind by the Obama administration is zilch.

There was also some speculation that the Venezuelans feared the Cuban 767 would be seized, as Cuban vessels have been detained in various foreign countries in the past due to Havana’s failures to fulfill financial obligations.

Be that as it may, Madrid’s ABC reported that there were 120 people in Maduro’s entourage: “12 security agents, Cuban physicians, an expert on explosives, an expert on ‘food security,’ an epidemiologist, the son and bodyguard of the president, his daughter-in-law, grandkids, two friends, stylist and a hair dresser for the First Lady, as well as several personnel identified as medical security.”  The group had booked reservations at New York’s Hyatt Grand Central hotel at a reported cost of $800,000.

Relations between the two countries have been difficult for some time. Toronto’s Globe and Mail reported that “the two countries have been without ambassadors since 2010,” and that “both countries appeared to be on a fast track to normalize relations… in early June after [Venezuela’s foreign minister] met with U.S. Secretary of State.”  But, the article continues, “Mr. Maduro announced the following month that he was freezing the effort after the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, said at a Senate confirmation hearing that Venezuela was guilty of ‘a crackdown on civil society’.”

The visas episode hardly matches Havana’s efforts to pack a cargo of weapons under bags of several tons of sugar and ship them through the Panama Canal to North Korea. Inspectors for the Panamanian government discovered that ruse, a clear violation of UN prohibitions on providing weapons to North Korea.

It was not, however, Maduro’s first performance in the theater of the absurd. His first was telling Venezuelans that a little bird had come to him with messages from the late Hugo Chávez. Maybe Maduro learned about Reich’s and Noriega’s machinations from the same bird.

Another Record Month of Repression in Cuba

In September 2013, there were over 708 political arrests conducted by the Castro regime in Cuba.

These are only political arrests that have been thoroughly documented by the Cuban Commission for Human Rights (CCHR). Many more are suspected.

Yet, this represents the third highest monthly tally in recent history.

September 2013's tally is only topped by the 796 political arrests in December 2011, in which the Castro regime's secret police cracked down on a large demonstration that democracy activists were preparing for Human Rights Day (December 10th).

And by the 1158 political arrests in March 2012, in the Castro regime's wave of repression prior to Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Cuba.

On this final point, it's important to note that democracy leaders like The Ladies in White's Sonia Garro remain arbitrarily imprisoned since March 2012.

More "reform" you can't believe in.

Control, Control & More Control

Here's the Tweet of the Week by Cuban democracy activist Yusnaby Perez:

I asked a bike-taxi driver the three words that define #Cuba.  His response was: "control, control and more control."

The Low Standard of Cuba Reporting: On Economic Measures

This week, we've shown the low standard of reporting by Havana's foreign news bureaus on the issues of athletes and repression.

They also exercise a very low standard of reporting on Castro's economic measures, which they twist, turn, spin and mold to fit their narrative of Raul "the reformer."

Last week, the headlines read:

"Cuba Further Opens Private Economy"

"Cuba OKs More Private Businesses, New Regulations"

"Cuba expands list of allowed private sector jobs"

This was based on a story in the state newspaper, Granma, which announced 18 new "self-employment" trades that Cubans can lease from the regime -- bringing the total to 199.

(Isn't it disconcerting how most Cuba stories picked up by Havana's foreign news bureaus seem to originate from Granma?)

Yet, only one news outlet honed in on the ruse of Castro's announcement.

Kudos to Reuters:

Cuba moves to safeguard monopoly on imported goods

Three years after opening up retail services, Cuba tightened the reins on Thursday with new regulations aimed at stopping the sale of imported goods at lower prices than those offered by the state.

In 2010, communist-run Cuba allowed retail services in the form of 200 individual activities from clowns, seamstresses, food vendors, taxis and the building trades, to small businesses such as restaurants, cafeterias, bed and breakfasts and home-based movie theaters.

Enterprising residents have taken advantage of some of the categories, i.e. seamstress and household supplies salesman, to offer imported clothing and supplies in greater variety and at lower cost than the state.

The measures appeared aimed at protecting the state's monopoly on the wholesale and retail sale of goods.

The new regulations, which were published in the official Gazette on Thursday and become law in 30 days, are aimed at "a better regulation of this form of non-state management" opined the Communist Party daily, Granma.

No Professional Contracts for Cuban Boxers

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
Last week, Havana's foreign news bureaus reported -- with certainty -- that Cuban athletes would soon be permitted to contract professionally abroad.

This was based on one sentence that referred to the "possibility" in Castro's newspaper, Granma.

No details or confirmation -- but that didn't stop the media hype.

Nor did the fact that Cuban star pitcher Raicel Iglesias spent the weekend in prison for trying to defect.

And yesterday, Alberto Puig, the head of the Cuban Boxing Federation, denied that any sort of permits are being considered for Cuban boxers to contract professionally abroad.

But why stop a good story with facts.

Young Leaders Group (YLG) Begins Dissident Awareness Campaign

The U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC's Young Leaders Group (YLG) has begun a dissident awareness campaign.

Every week in October, YLG will highlight a different member of Cuba's courageous democracy movement.

The campaign began today with Rosa Maria Paya.

Rosa María Paya, 24, is the daughter of the late Oswaldo Paya, the lead organizer of the Varela Project, a signature-gathering drive regarded as the largest nonviolent campaign challenging the Castro dictatorship. The petition asked authorities for a referendum on guaranteeing basic civil rights such as freedom of speech and assembly in Cuba.

Rosa María has continued in her father’s footsteps by demanding that the Cuban government adopt fundamental political changes through a nonviolent plebiscite process. Despite being constantly harassed and under close surveillance by the Cuban government, Rosa María has persisted by speaking about the need for democratic reforms to members of the United Nations, civic organizations, dignitaries and other international leaders. 

Rosa María is a shining example of Cuba’s bright democratic future.

Interview With Cuban Youth Leader Anyer Antonio Blanco

Did you miss last week's interview on Cristina Radio's "From Washington al Mundo" with Anyer Antonio Blanco, youth leader of the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU)?

Blanco, 26, was arrested at 18-years of age and served a six-year sentence in Castro's political prisons.

Click here to listen to his amazing story.

Antunez: Our Peaceful Steps for Freedom

From Cuban democracy leader Jorge Luis Garcia Perez "Antunez" remarks at Georgetown University (as published in The Miami Herald):

Any political proposal to attain peace in Cuba must come from the Cuban citizenry, from its persistent mobilization for freedom, which is its resistance movement. And this proposal of peace for Cuba has to include — inexorably — several cardinal issues:

• The total and real separation from power of the Castro family. Our country cannot be the property of a dynasty. Cuba was born of whites, blacks and Chinese to become a republic, the land of free men and women.

• The total separation of the Communist Party and the state. Cuban communists may have their party but never control the government of Cuba and subordinate it to their interests, as has happened for more than half a century.

• The liberation of all Cuban political prisoners.

• The legalization of the opposition political parties and the return of exiled Cubans.

• Free elections, under international supervision, for a Constituent Assembly.

• The creation of a Truth Commission that will rule on the direct responsibilities for crimes against humanity committed against the Cuban people by the dictatorship.

These issues and several more are included in a historic document titled “The Agreement for Democracy,” which was first signed by a broad majority of the Cuban opposition in 1998 and has subsequently been repeatedly ratified by Cuban oppositionists in Cuba and abroad.

I wish to close this first presentation by recalling a phrase from the man I quoted at the start: Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. He once said, “Our hope rises from our struggle.” He was right. We Cubans are struggling for change. We want peace for Cuba.

Iran, Cuba Widen Bilateral Relations

From Iran's state media:

Iran, Cuba Discuss Widening of Bilateral Relations

The Iranian and Cuban top diplomats, in a meeting held on the sidelines of the 68th UN General Assembly session in New York, discussed ways of broadening their countries' all-out ties.

During the Monday meeting, Mohammad Javad Zarif and his Cuban counterpart Bruno Rodriguez hailed the existing relations between the two friendly nations, and hoped for the further expansion of mutual cooperation between their countries in all fields.

Zarif stressed the importance of promoting Tehran-Havana ties in all issues.

Expressing satisfaction with the current level of bilateral relations, Zarif said Tehran is pursuing positive approach towards the Latin American states.

He further described as constructive the cooperation between Tehran and Havana at international arenas.

The Cuban side, for his part, referred to cordial ties between Iran and Cuba, appreciating Tehran’s policies on international developments.

Questions for Jesse Jackson on Cuba Trip

Sunday, September 29, 2013
During a speech last week, Reverend Jesse Jackson made the following important observation:

"We in the US don’t fully appreciate that there are more Africans in South, Central and Latin America, than in the USA. The slave trade started through this region; the US was the caboose."

He's absolutely right.

So here are some questions for Rev. Jackson regarding his trip to Cuba this weekend:

Why did you only meet with the leaders of Cuba's overwhelmingly white dictatorship?

Why didn't you meet with the Afro-Cuban leaders of the island's courageous democracy movement?


Why didn't you meet with the leader of The Ladies in White, Berta Soler, or with Angel Moya, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Manuel Cuesta Morua, Ivan Garcia, Guillermo Farinas, Damaris Moya Portieles or Ivan Hernandez Carrillo?


Why didn't you advocate for the release of Afro-Cuban political prisoners, such as Sonia Garro, Ramon Munoz and Ivan Fernandez Depestre?


Or is Castro's Cuba the exception to your civil rights rhetoric?


The Low Standard of Cuba Reporting: On Sunday's Repression

Two weeks ago, we challenged foreign news bureaus in Cuba to visit the central and eastern provinces, in order to witness and report on the repression executed every Sunday against peaceful democracy activists.

But, apparently, they are too busy in Havana scouring Granma for their next story.

Meanwhile, for the 12th Sunday in a row, Cuban democracy activists have been violently attacked and arrested by the Castro regime's repressive forces.

In Santa Clara, over 25 activists were arrested, including Sakharov Prize winner Guillermo Farinas.

In Colon, over 13 Ladies in White were beaten and arrested as they left Mass.

Moreover, the home of Caridad Burunate, where various Ladies in White took refuge, was assaulted, vandalized and pelted with rocks, garbage and tar. Her elderly mother was hidden in a bathroom in order to protect her from getting struck.

Throughout the island, over 36 Ladies in White were arrested.

In Santiago, over 12 members of the opposition Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) were arrested.

Also, renowned Cuban democracy leaders and former Black Spring prisoners of conscience, Angel Moya, Ivan Hernandez Carrillo and Felix Navarro, were arrested.

All in a Sunday's repression.

Cuban Punk Rocker Gorki Aguila Arrested

Last night, the Castro regime arrested Cuban punk rocker Gorki Aguila of the group "Porno Para Ricardo."

He was arrested at his home at 2 a.m.

Gorki is one of the most outspoken critics of the Cuban dictatorship.

He has been arbitrarily arrested on multiple occasions.

Cuban Pitcher Arrested for Trying to Defect

While foreign news bureaus speculate about the Castro regime supposedly authorizing Cuban athletes to contract professionally abroad -- based on one sentence in the state newspaper Granma -- a famed pitcher has been arrested for trying to flee the island.

Raicel Iglesias, a top Cuban pitcher, was arrested on Thursday for trying to flee the island.

Meanwhile, the Granma story alluding to Cuban athletes being authorized to contract abroad was published on Friday.

Diario de Cuba has confirmed the arrest of Iglesias and was told by a Cuban baseball official that he will no longer be able to train with his local team.

As we previously posted, this contradiction highlights the low standard of Cuba reporting by foreign news bureaus in Havana.

(Note that none of the foreign news bureaus in Havana have reported Iglesias' arrest -- for why ruin a good story line?)

And the lies and manipulations of the Castro regime.