Sunday, March 29, 2015

Remembering Joachim: Danish student studying Spanish in Cuba gunned down by soldier

18 years without justice ...
Joachim Løvschall: 1970 - 1997

Joachim Løvschall, a Danish student studying Spanish at the University of Havana gunned down by an AK-47 wielding Cuban soldier as he walked home on the evening of March 29,1997. The body remained hidden for days. The shooter was never identified. Ten years after his son's extrajudicial execution, Christian Løvschall spoke at a parallel forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland about what had happened.

Eighteen years later he is not forgotten. Friends and family remember and honor this young man on Facebook. He was born on December 8, 1970 and was extra-judicially executed on March 29, 1997 and those responsible in the Cuban regime have not been identified or held accountable.

Joachim should have celebrated his 44th birthday back in December, but thanks to the arbitrary cruelty of Cuba's state security apparatus he perished at age 26.

Today, a prayer in his memory and for his family who still miss him.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Freedom for Danilo concert in Havana, Cuba today


Concert today in Havana, Cuba
On March 28 at 3pm at La Paja Recold located on Ave 35 #4202 between 42 & 44 Apartment 5 in Havana, Cuba there will be a concert, expo, performance and "disrespect" all under the headline: "Freedom for Danilo." These members of civil society are testing the boundaries of what is permissible in Cuba. Increased international visibility may provide some protection. Please sign the petition demanding his release and spread the word on the campaign and the concert.

For more information on imprisoned artist Danilo Maldonado visit here. Below is a music video calling for his release. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

The FIU Declaration: 18 Years Later

On March 13, 1997 forty years to the day after students assaulted the Presidential Palace in Havana and perished trying to assassinate Fulgencio Batista leaving Castro in a better position later to seize power. Every free Cuba organization in FIU's history sat down for an evening and analyzed the consequences of their actions. We also explored what were our responsibilities as students and activists. At the end of the evening the following document was signed. 18 years later we remember this important and tragic anniversary and renew our call to action.

Gathering at FIU on March 13, 1997

Florida International University Declaration

We the Students of Florida International University recognizing that Cuban students have played a leading role in the history of Cuba, do hereby declare our support for the principles, and purposes enshrined in Concilio Cubano's founding statement in Havana, on October 10, 1995:

FIRST: The determination to work for a non-violent transition toward a democratic society under the rule of law, devoid of any vindictiveness, and equally comprising all Cubans.

SECOND: Obtaining unconditional amnesty for all political prisoners.

THIRD: Launching a series of legal transformations that will provide the necessary framework, within the law, to secure absolute respect for all universally recognized human rights, as well as equal participation by all Cubans in an opening process that will lead to economic independence.

FOURTH: The belief that, in order to harmonize the peaceful transition we are advocating the principle that Cuba is the fatherland and the home of each and every Cuban, it is essential to provide such conditions as will guarantee participation for all Cubans, with no exclusions whatsoever.

Concilio Cubano was designed to be a permanent forum where all participating organizations could fashion joint proposals while maintaining their own identity. We the students believe that the systematic denial of human rights and human dignity in Cuba cannot be tolerated. We believe that the moral and pragmatic solution is non-violent resistance to the intolerable situation in Cuba. To this end we pledge our lives and our freedom.

March 13, 1997 marks the 40th anniversary of the assault on the Presidential Palace. On that day the blood of Cuba's university students was spilled in the cause of freedom. On February 24, 1996 our generation of Cuban youth had its first four losses in this struggle. Mario De La  Peña, Armando Alejandre, an FIU alumnus, Carlos Costa and Pablo Morales where of our generation.

Forty years after the 13 of March. One year after the massacre of February 24. We the students who live in exile, wish to join with our brothers and sisters inside of Cuba for the liberation of our nation and the re- establishment of democracy and the rule of law in Cuba.

To this end we seek to follow the lead of the internal opposition, embrace the principles of non-violent resistance, speak out on behalf of Cuba's political prisoners, and issue a call to educate the children of the Cuban exile about the history and reality of the ongoing tragedy in Cuba.

Signed on March 13, 1997

Sebastian Arcos Cazabon
Comite Cubano Pro Derechos Humanos

Pedro Solares

Ana M. Carbonell
Alianza de Jovenes Cubanos

Lorenzo de Toro III
Generacion 90

John Suarez
FREE CUBA Foundation

Juan Jose de Castro
Directorio Revolucionario Democratico Cubano

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bearing witness and demanding justice for Brothers to the Rescue

"For the dead and the living, we must bear witness." - Elie Wiesel (1978)

Silent vigil on February 24, 2015 demanding justice for the four men in 2 Brothers to the Rescue planes killed in 1996

On December 29, 2014 in an open letter signed by past and present members of the Free Cuba Foundation it was announced that on February 24, 2015 they would be gathering at the main fountain at Florida International University. An abbreviated version of the letter was published in The Huffington Post on January 30, 2015 with title: Not in Our Name expressing deep concerns over the actions of the Obama administration on December 17, 2014.
FCF is concerned that releasing the three remaining spies, including Gerardo Hernandez -- who was serving two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to murder four members of Brothers to the Rescue in exchange for Gross and an unknown Cuban intelligence operative -- may lead to the Castro regime murdering more innocents inside and outside of Cuba.
 Two days after the new Cuba policy announcement President Obama spoke about the February 24, 1996 shoot down in terms that were factually inaccurate and called attention to his misrepresentations about what took place during that day.
FCF and its members are disturbed by the President's statement on December 19,2014 that the 1996 shoot down was not a premeditated move by Castro but a "tragic circumstance." This statement was deficient on two basic points. First of all, two planes were shot down over international airspace not one as he stated in the press conference. More importantly, the president's statement ignored documented evidence as well as court decisions and investigations by international human rights bodies that have concluded that the attack was indeed a premeditated extrajudicial execution.
 Last week on February 24th the silent vigil for justice took place at Florida International University and received press coverage. This is a tradition that began in 1996 and has been continued every year thereafter remembering that the shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes on February 24, 1996, by Castro regime MiGs caused the untimely deaths of Armando Alejandre Jr. (age 45), Carlos Alberto Costa (age 29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (age 24) and Pablo Morales (age 29).  In 2015 this silent vigil took place on the eve of President Barack Obama's visit to Florida International University for a Townhall meeting on immigration.

Miriam de la Peña, whose son Mario de la Peña, was one of the four men murdered by the Castro regime in the shoot down, spoke on camera summarizing the events that led to her son's death and concluded by asking President Obama: Why did he free her son's murderer who was serving a double life sentence?

Next year will mark 20 years since this terrible crime was committed and the continued impunity surrounding the shoot down demands that we once again gather to bear witness and demand justice with this silent vigil. G-d willing, we will be there once again on February 24, 2016 from 3:21pm to 3:27pm.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Czech NGO demands release for Cuban artist arbitrarily detained for two months

 February 26 marks two months that El Sexto has been arbitrarily detained.

Danilo Maldonadoa.k.a. El Sexto detained since Dec 26

Two months in jail for a performace that never took place

Danilo Maldonado, known as El Sexto (The Sixth), was detained on December 26, 2014 on the Malecón esplanade in Havana as he was driving towards the Central Park to make a performance with two pigs whose bodies were painted with the names of Cuban leaders: “Fidel” and “Raúl.“

Today, almost two month later, El Sexto remains in jail in Valle Grande, has been accused of “disrespect“and is awaiting a trial.  According to his relatives, he came down with pneumonia and has not received any medical care. In the beginning of this year, the Cuban authorities refused his application for habeas corpus submitted by Laritza Diversent, an attorney who denounced his arbitrary detention.

The fate of El Sexto is similar to the one of other Cuban opposition members who, in the past few years, have also suffered from arbitrary detentions without judicial guarantees. Despite the release of 53 political prisoners who were set free by the Cuban regime in the framework of the recent political opening with the United States, the situation of Cuban activists remains precarious.

Only a few days after El Sexto’s detention, on December 30, the Cuban artist, Tania Bruguera, organized an open microphone event during which people were invited to freely express their opinions on the Revolutionary Square. However, the event was boycotted by the police and the participants were brutally repressed. Tania Bruguera was arrested the night before and was released few days after the detention. Currently she is awaiting authorities to press charges against her.

There has been thawing of relations between Cuba and the United States and many people believe that the economic changes will contribute to a political opening on the island. However, performances similar to those organized by El Sexto or Tania Bruguera are still not welcomed. The message is clear: the art and politics have to remain separate and the critical irony will continue not to be accepted by the government. That’s why, now more than ever, it is important to keep an eye on the situation of the Cuban civil society. 

The People in Need demands an immediate release of Danilo Maldonado and urges international organizations to continue monitoring the works of artists and activists who, in this time of change in Cuba, continue fighting for free exercise of their political rights and individual freedoms.

Dos meses en la carcel por una performance que nunca  tuvo lugar

El grafitero Danilo Maldonado, conocido como El Sexto, fue detenido el 26 de diciembre en el Malecón de La Habana cuando se dirigía con un auto hacia el Parque Central, con dos cerdos, para hacer una performance. Los cerdos llevaban inscritos los nombres „Fidel“ y „Raúl“ respectivamente.

Hoy, casi dos meses después,  El Sexto permanece encerrado en la cárcel Valle Grande, acusado de un delito de „desacato“ y en espera de juicio. Según han informado sus familiares, ha enfermado de neumonía y no está recibiendo tratamiento médico. A principios de año, las autoridades rechazaron un recurso de habeas corpus presentado por la abogada Laritza Diversent que denunciaba su detención arbitraria.

La encarcelación de El Sexto no es muy diferente a las que lllevan sufriendo los opositores en Cuba durante los últimos años, de forma arbitraria y sin garantías judiciales. A pesar de la liberación de 53 presos políticos que el gobierno cubano a puesto en práctica recientemente en el marco del acercamiento con Estados Unidos, la situación de los activistas  continúa siendo precaria.

Tan solo unos días después de la dentención de El Sexto, el 30 de diciembre, otra performance organizada por la artista Tania Bruguera en la plaza de la Revolución, consistente en un micrófono abierto donde la gente podía expresar libremente sus opiniones, fue igualmente boicoteada por la policía, y sus participantes duramente reprimidos. Tania Bruguera había sido arrestada en su casa la noche anterior, y fue puesta en libertad unos días después. Ahora está a la espera de que se le presenten cargos.

Cuba y Estados Unidos han empezado a dialogar, y muchos confían en el poder de la economía para traer cambios políticos, pero lo cierto es que performances como las de El Sexto o la de Tania Bruguera siguen sin ser bienvenidas en Cuba. El mensaje está muy claro: arte y realidad política deben permanecer separados, y la crítica y la ironía van a seguir sin ser aceptadas por el gobierno. Por eso, ahora más que nunca, es importante observar con atención la evolución en la situación de la sociedad civil cubana.

Desde People in Need exigimos la inmediata puesta en libertad de Danilo Maldonado e instamos a los organismos internacionales a mantenerse alerta al trabajo de artistas y activistas que seguirán luchando el desarrollo de los derechos políticos y las libertades individuales en Cuba en estos tiempos de cambio.

People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy - rewriting Cuba,

Monday, February 23, 2015

Silent Vigil for Justice for Shootdown Victims

For Justice

Family members, Students and University Community
To Hold Silent Vigil for Shootdown Victims 

Non-Violent protest at FIU on eve of President Obama’s town hall meeting  

Family members, students and members of the university community will be holding a silent vigil for justice for the four victims of the February 24, 1996 shoot down. The vigil will take place at the main fountain at Florida International University located between the Charles E. Perry Bldg. (Primera Casa) and the Green Library on February 24, Tuesday from 3:21pm to 3:27pm the times both planes were shot down. Family members and students will be there beginning at 3:00pm.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015 will mark 19 years since Fidel and Raul Castro ordered Cuban MiGs to hunt and shoot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes that at the time were in international airspace killing Armando Alejandre Jr. (45 years old), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29). A thorough international investigation carried out by the Inter-American Commission on the merits made public in 1999 concluded: that the Castro regime was legally responsible for their murders and for the lack of justice.

Successful civil lawsuits have been brought against the Castro regime by the families of the victims, but criminal prosecutions of those responsible, save one case, have not been carried out. On December 12, 2001 Gerardo Hernandez, a Cuban spy ,was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder for his role in providing information that led to the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama on December 17, 2014 commuted his life sentence and returned Mr. Hernandez to Cuba. Families have expressed feeling misled by the United States government.

The vigil has been carried out annually since 1996 by members of the Free Cuba Foundation, a student movement founded at FIU in 1993.

WHO:      Family members of four men killed on February 24, 1996 
                FIU students
                Members of the University Community

WHERE: Main Fountain at Florida International University
               Located between the Green Library and Charles E. Perry bldg
              11200 Southwest 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199

WHAT:   Silent vigil for justice for the victims of the February 24, 1996 shoot down

WHEN:  Tuesday, February 24 gathering at 3pm event starts at 3:21pm sharp

Where were you the day Orlando Zapata Tamayo died five years ago?

Where were you the day you got the news that Orlando Zapata Tamayo died five years ago on February 23, 2010? 

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

 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 heroes  Oscar Elias Biscet, and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in campaigns 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."  

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.