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Saturday, February 23, 2019

Where were you when Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died nine years ago today?

"October 20, 2003 [Orlando Zapata] was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations." - Amnesty International, January 25, 2004

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, May 15, 1967 – February 23, 2010
Do you even know who Orlando Zapata Tamayo was?

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a Cuban bricklayer and human rights defender who worked with human rights defenders Oscar Elias Biscet, and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in separate campaigns respectively to educate Cubans on human rights and to reclaim those rights in the Project Varela petition drive.

He was imprisoned in 2003 and continuously beaten and tortured for seven years for continuing his defiance of the dictatorship and defense of human rights behind bars. In late 2009 in order to protest mistreatment he went on hunger strike and prison officials responded by taking his water away in order to break his spirit. Instead they killed him. Amnesty International said "Cuban authorities responsible for activist's death on hunger strike."

Cuban human rights defender and martyr Orlando Zapata Tamayo
The uproar caused by his death was a key factor in the later release over the course of 2010 and 2011 of the remaining prisoners of conscience imprisoned since 2003.

Returning to the original question in abbreviated form: "Where were you the day Orlando Zapata Tamayo died?"

The Canadian punk rock band I.H.A.D. asked the question in a song simply titled "Orlando Zapata" and we after requesting their permission produced the video below accompanying their song.

On Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00pm sharp join us at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC to protest this and other crimes of the Castro regime. Ni1Mas! Not1More

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

First Poster for #Feb24SilentProtest + #SilentVigilForJustice on #24F for Castro regime victims

Not One more (Not1+) extrajudicial killing, Not1+ political prisoner, Not1+ illegitimate vote, Not1+ year of dictatorship, Not1+ year of Castro regime meddling in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.


#Feb24SilentProtest + #SilentVigilForJustice

Where: Cuban Embassy
       2630 16th St NW, Washington,DC
When: 3:00pm on February 24th

Why: Time to say to the Castro regime Ni1+(Not1+):

Not1+ illegitimate vote,
Not1+ political prisoner
Not1+ extrajudicial killing,
Not1+ year of dictatorship in Cuba,
Not1+ year of Castro regime meddling in Venezuela, Nicaragua & elsewhere.

   Yes to justice, truth, reconciliation, and free and fair elections.

For more information visit here

Sunday, February 17, 2019

#Feb24SilentProtest + #SilentVigilForJustice at Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC on February 24th for Castro regime's victims

"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." - Elie Wiesel

What: #Feb24SilentProtest & Vigil for BTTR shoot down victims
When: Gather Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 3:00pm Vigil starts promptly at 3:21pm
Where: Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC
            2630 16th St NW, Washington, DC 20009

Five years ago in February of 2014 on Venezuela's national youth day the Maduro regime gunned down students peacefully protesting in the streets of Venezuela. The killings have continued to the present day. 

Nine years ago on February 23, 2010 human rights defender, and Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike after years of torture and mistreatment by Castro regime agents. Political prisoners continue to suffer in Cuban prisons today.

Let us also take this upcoming Sunday, February 24th at 3:00pm not only to say "No" to the illegitimate referendum in Cuba, but to say "No" to dictatorship, and "No" to the continued impunity in Cuba and Venezuela. Friends of freedom around the world please join us in calling on the Castro regime to stop meddling and get out of Venezuela, Nicaragua and bring those responsible for gross and systematic human rights abuses in Cuba to justice.

Also at the Cuban Embassy in Washington DC there will be a vigil hosted by the Free Cuba Foundation between 3:21pm and 3:27pm the times that two Brothers to the Rescue planes, flying through international airspace searching for rafters, were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by Cuban MiGs on Raul Castro's orders. 

Four individuals were murdered twenty three years ago and their names are Armando Alejandre Jr. (age 45), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29). The four men were murdered in an act of state terrorism by the Castro regime on February 24, 1996 while they sought to save Cuban lives. 

Fact Sheet on February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue Shoot down 

February 24, 1996 shoot down was an act of state terrorism that blew two civilian aircraft out of the sky with air to air missiles while in international airspace after regime planned the act months beforehand with its espionage network in the United States.
 FACT 1: By definition: Terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)  

FACT 2: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to life (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, who died as a result of the direct actions of its agents on the afternoon of 24 February 1996 while flying through international airspace.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits

FACT 3: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to a fair trial (Article XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of the relatives of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, in that to date the Cuban authorities have not conducted an exhaustive investigation with a view toward prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and have not indemnified those same relatives for the damage they suffered as a result of those illicit acts.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits
FACT 4: In Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F.Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997), a federal district court awarded the families of three of the four occupants of the “ Brothers to the Rescue” planes shot down by Cuba in 1996 a total of $187.7 million in damages against Cuba.
Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview by Jennifer K. Elsea
FACT 5: WASP spy network was involved. One of the “illegal officers” (Gerardo Hernandez) was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder based on his role in the February 24, 1996, shoot-down of two unarmed civilian aircraft in international airspace by Cuban Air Force jet fighters, which resulted in the deaths of four people, three of them U.S. citizens.
Department of Justice on Obama Commutations
FACT 6: Brothers to the Rescue had spotted and saved thousands of rafters in the Florida Straits and was engaged in such a mission on that day. The one plane that skirted the boundary briefly was the only one to return. The other two were shotdown miles away from Cuba’s boundary having never entered or touched it on that day and the planes had been in contact with the Cuban tower throughout the flight.
ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown
FACT 7: On July 26, 1996 the United Nations Security Council: "Noting that the unlawful downing of two civil aircraft on 24 February by the Cuban Air Force violated the principle that States must refrain from using weapons against airborne civil aircraft, the Security Council this afternoon condemned such use as being incompatible with the rules of customary international law "
ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown
FACT 8: Ana Belen Montes, the US intelligence community's top analyst on Cuban affairs had throughout a sixteen-year career at the Defense Intelligence Agency sent the Cuba intelligence service sensitive and secret information and helped to shape US opinion on Cuba. Investigation against her was triggered by her odd behavior before and after the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. On September 21 2001 Ana Belen Montes was arrested and subsequently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage for the government of Cuba. Montes eventually pleaded guilty to spying, and in October, 2002, she was sentenced to a 25-year prison term followed by 5 years of probation.
True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy
FACT 9: On December 27, 2010 and again in a January 19, 2011 clarification the defense of Cuban spy-master Gerardo Hernandez acknowledged that "there was overwhelming evidence that the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes occurred in international airspace, not Cuban territory."
The Miami Herald: Cuban spymaster now claims Brothers to the Rescue shooting was outside Cuban airspace by Jay Weaver December 27, 2010
FACT 10: On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama commuted Gerardo Hernandez’s two life sentences and returned him along with two other spies jailed for crimes in the United States to Cuba where they were received with a hero’s welcome in what is an immense propaganda victory for the Castro regime.
Department of Justice on Obama Commutations 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Misrepresenting Elliott Abrams record while remaining silent on the role of the Castros' in genocide in Africa and Latin America.

"Amazing how everything the left accuses the U.S. of wanting to do in Venezuela —siphon off oil wealth, install a puppet dictator, run hundreds of spies, crush democratic institutions— is stuff Cuba is *actually* doing. And has been. For years."  - Caracas Chronicles

Fidel Castro lounging with war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam, in Ethiopia in 1977
Today the news was focused on Elliott Abrams and the Reagan Administration's policy of promoting democracy (in El Salvador) and backing anti-communist regimes in Central America. Nor was any mention made today of the role Elliott Abrams played in easing General Augusto Pinochet out of power in Chile.

It is also important to recall that "University of Hawaii historian R. J. Rummel, who made a career out of studying what he termed “democide,” the killing of people by their own government, reported in 1987 that credible estimates of the Castro regime’s death toll at the time ran from 35,000 to 141,000, with a median of 73,000."

Also missing from the conversation was that this was at a time when the Soviet Union and Cuba had been backing communist insurgencies to overthrow governments across the region, or that Fidel Castro has a far higher body count to account for, not only in the Americas but also Africa.

The conversation today at the Congressional hearing was supposed to be about Venezuela.

According to Amnesty International there have been more than 8,200 extrajudicial executions between 2015 and June 2017 in Venezuela. Wonder what the full tally is during the 20 years of the Chavez-Maduro regime?

But the record of extrajudicial killings goes back to the early 1960s.

Fidel Castro greets Hugo Chavez in Cuba on December 13, 1994

Fidel Castro, beginning in 1959, had strategic designs on taking over Venezuela to exploit its natural resources in order to magnify its regional impact.  A cache of three tons of weapons was found on a Venezuelan beach in November 1963 that was to be used to disrupt the democratic elections there. The Castro regime repeatedly tried to violently overthrow the social democratic government in Venezuela.

On May 8, 1967 "two small boats carrying a dozen heavily armed fighters made landfall near Machurucuto, a tiny fishing village 100 miles east of the Venezuelan capital, Caracas. Their plan was to march inland and recruit Venezuelan peasants to the cause of socialist revolution." An all night gun battle with the Venezuelan military led to nine guerrillas dead, two captured, and one who had escaped.

What the Cubans were not able to do in Venezuela with force of arms they were able to accomplish through subversion via the ballot box first with Hugo Chavez in 1999 and later with his successor Nicolas Maduro. Tens of thousands of Cuban intelligence officers and soldiers are in Venezuela and have played a role in the political violence and extrajudicial executions there.

Fidel Castro and Augusto Pinochet
The communist regime in Cuba was also involved in training and arming insurgencies in Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Argentina, Uruguay, and many other places. Many of these initiatives directly on the orders of Fidel and Raul Castro.   These actions on more than one occasion sparked violent civil wars that claimed tens of thousands of lives.

Efforts to subvert the Colombian government through a combination of training and arming communist guerilla groups while funding them through drug trafficking did not lead to the overthrow of the Colombian government but it led to the Castro regime being placed on the U.S. State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism on March 1, 1982

The Castro regime achieved one "success" in Latin America with its myriad of armed interventions: the overthrow of the Somoza regime in Nicaragua and the installation of the Marxist-Leninist Sandinista regime. Robert A. Pastor, of The Carter Center in July 1992 in the report "The Carter Administration and Latin America: A Test of Principle" explained that in Nicaragua "by May 1979, with Cuban President Fidel Castro's help, the three Sandinista factions had united and established a secure and ample arms flow from Cuba through Panama and Costa Rica." The Sandinistas drove out the Somoza regime on July 19, 1979 and would remain a force there to the present day committing extrajudicial killings.

Will Congresswoman Ilhan Omar mention the role Cubans played in the civil wars in Latin America? What about Africa?

In Ethiopia the Castro brothers backed a genocidal war criminal who murdered over a million of his own people. Fidel and Raul Castro sent 17,000 Cuban troops to East Africa to assist Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam in consolidating his rule and eliminating actual and potential opposition in Ethiopia. Charles Lane of The Washington Post in the December 1, 2016 article "Castro was no liberator" raised the following facts about events in Ethiopia:

Mengistu participated in a successful military coup against the U.S.-backed Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974, eventually seizing power on Feb. 3, 1977,by massacring his rivals in the officer corps. Castro admired this bloody deed as a preemptive strike against “rightists” that showed “wisdom” and cleared the way for Cuba to support Mengistu “without any constraints,” as he explained to East German dictator Erich Honecker in an April 1977 meeting whose minutes became public after the fall of European communism. [...] With the Cuban forces watching his back, Mengistu wrapped up his bloody campaign of domestic repression, known as “the Red Terror,” and sent his own Soviet-equipped, Cuban-trained troops to crush a rebellion in Eritrea. The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until September 1989; they were still on hand as hundreds of thousands died during the 1983-1985 famine exacerbated by Mengistu’s collectivization of agriculture. 
Human Rights Watch in their 2008 report on Ethiopia titled outlined "Collective Punishment War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region" some of the practices carried out by Cuban troops sent there by Fidel and Raul Castro excerpted below:
In December 1979, a new Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, “was more specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.”
The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until 1989 and were present and complicit in the engineered famine that took place there. Will Congresswoman Ilhan Omar raise the issue of the genocide aided and abetted by the Castro brothers in Africa? A genocide that killed over a million Ethiopians.

If black lives matter then the role two white Cuban dictators played to facilitate genocide in Ethiopia should not be ignored. Hopefully, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar will call a hearing to explore this matter and the role played by the Castro regime both in Africa and Latin America.

Raul Castro and Fidel Castro with ally Mengistu Haile Mariam

Friday, January 18, 2019

Why Cuba's infant mortality rate is higher than that of the United States.

Rule #1 to understanding Cuba: The Cuban government lies.


Nicholas Kristof has written an OpEd in The New York Times that is at best irresponsible titled "Why Infants Maybe More Likely to Die in America Than Cuba," and relies on Cuban government statistics to make his case. The claim made is that the infant mortality rate (IMR) in Cuba is only 4.0 deaths per 1,000 live births and that in the United States it is 5.9 and that due to this Americans should copy aspects of the Cuban healthcare system.  The trouble is that the number provided by the Cubans is a fabrication. Roberto Gonzalez at the University of Chapel Hill provides an analysis that explains this in detail.The chart above gives the actual estimate of the IMR in Cuba with a median estimate of 9.04 and a range that begins at 5.79 and extends up to 11.16. High rates of abortions to do away with problem pregnancies is also a factor for the IMR rate in Cuba.

Katherine Hirschfeld, an associate professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma, in her book Health, Politics, and Revolution in Cuba Since 1898 describes how her idealistic preconceptions were dashed by 'discrepancies between rhetoric and reality,' she observed a repressive, bureaucratized and secretive system, long on 'militarization' and short on patients' rights. "Public criticism of the government is a crime in Cuba," and as a result "formally eliciting critical narratives about health care would be viewed as a criminal act." Hirschfeld also says that because Cuba recognizes that its health care system is a key way to impress the rest of the world, there is pressure to paint an overly rosy picture.

In addition, Hirschfeld says that "individual doctors are pressured by their superiors to reach certain statistical targets," and face the possibility of being fired if there is an increase in infant mortality in their district. "There is pressure to falsify statistics," Hirschfeld says.

The focus on outcomes may also lead to heavy-handed patient care. According to Hirschfeld, "Cuba does have a very low infant mortality rate, but pregnant women are treated with very authoritarian tactics to maintain [favorable] statistics."

Furthermore Roberto M. Gonzalez in his 2015 study on Infant Mortality in Cuba: Myth and Reality concludes that:
 “Cuba’s reported IMR seems very misleading. By exploring a sharp discrepancy between late fetal and early neonatal deaths, I develop a method for adjusting Cuba’s reported IMR. The results indicate that the adjusted IMR might be twice the reported one.” 
This means that Cuba's infant mortality rate is higher, not lower than the IMR of the United States, and Mr. Kristof is spreading falsehoods from the platform of The New York Times.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Remembering on Christmas Eve those in prison for acts of conscience: A Call to Action

"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."- Hebrews 13:3

Prisoners of conscience are observing Christmas Eve in terrible conditions in China, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Venezuela, Vietnam, and many other places around the world. It is impossible to list them all here but it is important to remember them. Here are a few that represent the many who remain unnamed.

Political prisoner in Nicaragua Amaya Copens, age 23
Amaya Coppens, a fifth year medicine student at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de León in Nicaragua has been arrested and accused of "terrorism." She was detained on  September 10, 2018 along with Sergio Alberto Midence Delgadillo by hooded police that used violence to detain them, and take them away in a van. Her "crime" is being outspoken against the violence visited on peaceful protesters and belonging to the University Coalition for Democracy along with the Justice (CUDJ) and the Civic Alliance and Social Movements Network. She is the eighth member of the CUDJ to be arbitrarily detained in what is a campaign of harassment and repression against a dozen university organizations working together at the national level for a free Nicaragua. She faces a political show trial with a Sandinista judge in February of 2019. She was just 23 years old at the time of her arrest and has been held in prison since then.

Political prisoner in Cuba Eduardo Cardet, age 50

Eduardo Cardet Concepción is a medical doctor, a husband, and a father of two small children. He is widely respected in his community. He is a person of impeccable moral character. Despite all of this, he was beaten up and arrested in front of his wife and children on November 30, 2016. That was his last day in freedom, he has continued to suffer beatings in prison, and was repeatedly stabbed with a sharp object. Both he and his family have been additionally punished, and visits and calls denied for months at a time. In March of 2017 he was sentenced to three years in prison, and Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. Eduardo Cardet is a democrat, a human rights defender, and speaks his mind openly. Because of this he had been a victim of regime harassment in the past. Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016 while Cardet was outside of Cuba. He was interviewed by international media and gave a frank assessment of Fidel Castro's political legacy and said that there was nothing positive. Refusing to mourn Fidel Castro's death is punishable by prison in Cuba, and offering a nonviolent political alternative to the existing system is grounds for prison in the Castro regime.

Opposition deputy Juan Requesens in custody for 133 days without a hearing (PanAm Post)

Former student opposition leader and opposition deputy of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Requesens, has been a steadfast, moderate, non-violent opposition leader to the Maduro regime in Venezuela.  The Maduro regime has manufactured charges that the opposition leader planned the assassination of Nicolas Maduro and is seeking to sentence him to 30 years in prison. He is 29 years old, married and father to two young children.

Partial lists provided by internal human rights groups indicate that there are at least 120 political prisoners in Cuba, 576 political prisoners in Nicaragua, and 288 political prisoners in Venezuela spending the holiday season behind bars.

People of good will have a responsibility to do what they can. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in an address to the European Parliament on December 17, 2002 explained that "[t]he cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized."

More than a dozen human rights and pro-democracy organizations from Latin America, Europe and the United States have made a request during this holiday season that bishops, priests, pastors, rabbis, and men and women of good will to engage in all possible efforts with the authorities to obtain an amnesty of all political prisoners in Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua

Please join us in speaking up for these and other political prisoners and remember, that helping them in a utilitarian sense we also help ourselves, that more importantly we must do this because it is the right thing to do. The great Czech dissident Václav Havel explained back in 1990 that "[t]he salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility."

It begins with you. Will you do your part?

1. Please  ask your pastor, rabbi, or priest to pray for the freedom of political prisoners during their religious services during this holiday season.

2. Please write letters to religious leaders in your community to request that the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua free their political prisoners.

3. Please use the following hashtags to spread this message.

#NavidadSinPresosPolíticosEnCubaVenezuelaYNicaragua. #ChristmasWithoutPoliticalPrisonersInCubaVenezuelaAndNicaragua  

Friday, October 5, 2018

Celebrating Vaclav Havel's solidarity with Cuban democrats and campaign for the release of Cuban political prisoners

We miss Havel.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with Vaclav Havel in 2002

Vaclav Havel was born on this day in 1936. Cubans owe him a debt of gratitude for his constant solidarity and support. Below is a video where he describes his own time as a political prisoners and calls for support for Cuba's political prisoners.

Havel was a friend and supported of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas. He also met with him and other Cuban dissidents over the years, such as Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo, Osvaldo Alfonso and engaged in campaigns for the release of Cuban political prisoners.

Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo with Vaclav Havel in 2009
We will never forget and we will always be grateful.

Osvaldo Alfonso with Vaclav Havel