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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

FCF Coordinator debates "Have Obama's Cuba gains unravelled?" on TRT World's The Newsmakers

"There are genuinely few times that I can say I debated an unapologetic supporter of the Castro regime. This is one of them." - John Suarez

FCF's John Suarez debates Robert Miller of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign
On Monday October 9, 2017 The Newsmakers, the "flagship current affairs programme, featuring in-depth reports and interviews with the drivers of the biggest stories of the week" for TRT World taped a program on the ongoing diplomatic crisis in Cuba. The two guests were John Suarez, of the Free Cuba Foundation and Robert Miller, of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign's unapologetic claims that Cuba is a democracy are even more troubling when one takes into account that Jeremy Corbyn is a long time member. Following the debate John shared the following observation: "There are genuinely few times that I can say I debated an unapologetic supporter of the Castro regime. This is one of them."

Please share with friends and encourage them to comment. Mr. Miller claims that a majority of Americans and Cuban Americans favor the former Obama Administration's Cuba policy.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Remembering Omar Pernet Hernández: Interview on medical mistreatment that he suffered in Cuba

Omar Pernet Hernández passed away in Louisville, Kentucky on October 7, 2017. In 2009 the Free Cuba Foundation interviewed this former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience at his apartment in Madrid, Spain. Below is a transcript of the interview provided by HopeforAmerika.

Omar Pernet Hernández August 15, 1945 - October 7, 2017

"Then, they realized I would never submit. The times I was incarcerated they were never able to make me submit. They hit me, punishment in solitary confinement, I went on hunger strikes."  - Omar Pernet Hernández, 2009  

Interview with Omar Pernet Hernández in February of 2009 in Madrid, Spain.

Omar Pernet: Look, the meaning of this, is that this type of boot that you see here....I will show it to you again. This boot was fitted for me in Cuba and it began to damage my hips because one, the left, is longer than the right. Then, one hip went like this 0:30 (shows the way hip is going up). Then, here in Spain, they said I couldn't go on wearing those boots, and they asked me to cut them down, and told me to make the ones I'm wearing. These I'm wearing now are stabilizing my hips.

INT: "How is it possible, since the Cuban doctors are so excellent normally, at least that's what the Cubans say, and promote throughout the world. That they should be so wrong? And hurt you so much? How many months did you stay that way in Cuba?"

OP: Well, in 2005, on the 5th of April, I began to wear these boots until the 17-18. I stayed like that until the 3rd of March of 2008 using those boots. These I'm wearing now are different, from Spain. " Stands up, 2:06, shows. "The only thing they did was to slap a cast on. They had me on a cast from the tips of my toes up to my neck for 18 months. The doctors here [in Spain] say they don't find any logic to it. That it was intolerable, the amount of time I spent in those conditions. The cast was removed twice, and each time it was to break my leg again." "I always said I didn't want to do it, because it was gambling with health to demand health, so I gambled with my health, risked my life. Including 2006-2007. I had to go on hunger strikes several times to demand medical attention, for my leg and collar bone. 8:01. Look at my collar bone. Look at the way it is."

INT: "What's it like? We see it, but what does it mean?"

OP: "That was broken in the accident as well."

INT: "It didn't heal properly."

OP: "No. It's crossed over like this 2:20"

OP: "Then, they realized I would never submit. The times I was incarcerated they were never able to make me submit. They hit me, punishment in solitary confinement, I went on hunger strikes."

INT: "Why the hunger strikes? People ask themselves what that's about."

OP: "Look, whenever I went on a hunger strike, it was to defend the rights of another prisoner, or to defend my own rights. To demand respect for my own rights. They didn't, and I went on hunger strikes."

OP: "He broke my leg twice again."

 INT: "Do you think the orders came from the higher-ups? Or from the doctor himself?"

OP: "I think, in my opinion, independent orientation of the Cuban Security, maybe a little higher, the government. They were the ones who were trying to harm me."

INT: "The Cuban Security would be who? The Dept. of Interior?"

OP: "The Security of State, which is National Security, the one for crimes against the Security of the State, against political crimes."

INT: "What is your opinion about the mistake of the Cuban doctors? After all, they could see that your condition was getting worse."

OP: "Look, in regard to that question, I'm going to tell you that maybe I don't have anything against Cuban medicine. And that, that man, that doctor, he wanted to cause me harm. It's not that he is a bad specialist, because I can't say if he is good or bad. With me he was bad, because he tried to harm me, at all times. He did not operate me."

OP: "Don't you see? Now my hip is stabilized. Because it is the same length as my normal leg. That other boot was raising my hip. Like this." (3:51)

 INT: "This was obviously causing harm."

OP: "Of course, Dr. Verduga, here in Madrid, was the one who did x-rays, and an MRI, and then they could see that my hip was losing position, that it was raising, and that my left leg was longer than the right. Then he forbid me to use those boots, gave me a prescription to use these I'm wearing."

OP: "See? They're different. This here is, you see, 2:16 (shows) here is my heel, and from there on, the work they did to stabilize my hips."

INT: "What was the impact on your hip, because we're talking 2, 3 yrs."

OP: "It's the accident. All this was because of the accident, but after the accident, I was not operated. They said my blood contained a virus, and that my blood could not touch my bone. That was Dr. Hector, Chief of Orthopedics of the Military Hospital in Marianao, in Cuba."

INT: "Is Hector his first, or last name?"

OP: "No, his first name, I don't remember his last name."

 INT: "You say the cause was the accident. But this boot damaged your hip, right?"

OP: "Yes, he was the one who had the boots made."

INT: "What was the impact of that boot? And how are things after the change here in Spain? What's the difference between them?"

OP: "Well, with that boot I showed you in the newspaper it looked like this because 3:34 (shows newspaper) with that boot my hip rose."

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

FCF co-founder addresses travel industry's reckless disregard for tourists visiting Cuba

Same travel industry that flew tourists into Cuba, while it was under Hurricane Watch for Irma (a deadly category five storm), now wish to disregard a State Department warning on travel to Cuba.

24 hrs before Hurricane Irma hit Cuba, travel agencies were still flying tourists in.

 Sun Sentinel, October 4, 2017

Don't rush to call Cuba 'a safe destination' | Letters

On Sept. 29, news organizations published the article "Travel industry sticking with trips to Cuba from U.S." In the article Greg Geronemus, CEO of SmarTours says, "We continue to believe that Cuba is a safe destination for our travelers, and we will be running our tours until our assessment changes."

The Cuba travel industry insists travel to Cuba is safe and dismisses the travel warning issued on Sept. 29 by the State Department that described how "numerous U.S. Embassy Havana employees have been targeted in specific attacks. These employees have suffered significant injuries as a consequence of these attacks."

Press accounts report "mild traumatic brain injuries, hearing loss, severe headaches, cognitive disruption, and brain swelling." Over the past 10 months they have not been able to identify the source of the attacks but did report that the attacks occurred both at "U.S. diplomatic residences and hotels frequented by U.S. citizens." At least 21 Americans have been harmed.

The travel industry's claim that "Cuba is a safe destination" should be placed in context. Earlier in September when Hurricane Irma, a deadly category five storm with 180 mile per hour winds was bearing down on Cuba and a hurricane watch issued, tourists were still being flown into the island by British and Canadian travel agencies.

The British travel agency "Thomas Cook has defended itself saying the company followed the Cuban government's emergency instructions to the letter," BBC News reported. Cayo Coco suffered the full impact of Hurricane Irma and was destroyed by the storm. They were flying tourists into Cuba to Cayo Coco a day prior to the storm's arrival, as reported by The Independent (United Kingdom).

CBC News (Toronto) reported that Canadian tour operator Sunwing had elderly tourists flying into Cuba 24 hours before the deadly Category 5 storm, Hurricane Irma, smashed into Cuba , forcing them to flee for their lives. Hundreds of foreign tourists didn't make it and were left stranded to face a hurricane that according to official Cuban government figures claimed ten lives and injured many more, but these travel agencies were just following regime orders.

Now this same travel industry tells tourists Cuba is safe and to ignore "targeted attacks" that took place at hotels frequented by tourists that can cause serious harm. This is an outrage.

John Suarez, coordinator, Free Cuba Foundation in Miami

Copyright © 2017, Sun Sentinel


Thursday, September 21, 2017

FCF co-founder addresses attack on U.S. diplomats in Cuba in The Miami Herald

 "The types of injuries suffered by diplomats since November 2016 are new but Cuba’s outlaw behavior towards them is not." - John Suarez

Letter to the Editor published today in the Miami Herald on page 16A


The Miami Herald’s September 19, 2017 editorial “Unless Cuba comes clean about the embassy attacks on U.S. diplomats, it will put renewed ties at risk” offers an overview of the “strange case” of American diplomats and their dependents harmed in Cuba.

But three points should be considered.

First, Raul Castro lies, and there are two recent examples. Castro on March 21, 2016 in the joint press conference with President Obama said that there were no political prisoners in Cuba, and if any were identified they would be released immediately.  A list of current Cuban political prisoners was provided, but they were not freed. In July 2013, Cuban officials were caught trying to smuggle war planes, missiles and technology related to ballistic missile programs hidden under 220,000 bags of sugar to North Korea and lied about it. This was in violation of U.N. sanctions.

Second, Obama did not achieve an end to the Cold War with Cuba. On Jan. 2, 2017 Cuban troops marched in a parade over which Castro presided chanting that they would repeatedly shoot the first African American President in the head so many times that they would make a “hat of lead to the head.” Considering that American diplomats in Havana were already suffering brain trauma since November 2016 perhaps this should be looked at in a new light.

Third, the statement by the Cuban embassy in Washington on September 19, 2017 that "Cuba strictly observes its obligations to protect foreign diplomats on its soil" is not true. There is a decades old pattern of hostility

The types of injuries suffered by diplomats since November 2016 are new but Cuba’s outlaw behavior towards them is not.

- John Suarez
 Free Cuba Foundation

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance issues new statement on ICCAS scandal at UM

"Keeping ICCAS at the University of Miami and maintaining the tradition of critical inquiry established by Dr. Suchlicki in 1999 is sorely needed in today's academic environment where academic freedom is under assault." - John Suarez, FCF co-founder, August 15, 2017

Press conference today at Brigade 2506 Museum and Library

August 17, 2017

Throughout the years, the University of Miami has been an important part of our Cuban-American community and the Cuban American community has greatly supported the University of Miami. Many generations of Cuban-Americans whose families made Miami their home have pursued their higher education studies at the University of Miami. As our community grew, so did the University. We are as much a part of the University of Miami as the University is a part of us. Our community has made significant contributions to the University’s growth and current reputation throughout the world for its educational excellence. The Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) has been a key component of this relationship, and it has objectively and factually reflected the truth about Cuba and our community since it was founded almost twenty years ago.

At a time when freedom of speech and academic freedom are challenged by the influence of both authoritarian and totalitarian regimes on campuses across the country, we must all remain vigilant about the Castro regime’s efforts to influence Cuban and Latin American studies at American universities. The issue of ICCAS has to do with our concern about hostile foreign government disinformation, and as the FBI has reported, the Castro regime’s recruitment efforts in the academic community in the United States.

A meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow by the President of the University of Miami with a limited number of members of our Cuban American community -as well as others- to discuss the controversy regarding ICCAS. Many prominent Cuban exile and Cuban American academics and intellectuals, as well as community leaders have been regrettably excluded from this meeting.  The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance as a plural, inclusive and democratic institution of this community, stands together as one to express our concerns and reiterate that in order to safeguard ICCAS’ future as a truthful, balanced and objective institute for Cuban and Cuban American studies within the University of Miami, we recommend the following:

  • That the University/Institute does not engage in any exchange with Cuban academic institutions because they are under the direct control of Cuba’s one-party totalitarian state.  As has been amply demonstrated, academia is seen as a tool of intelligence gathering and influence peddling by the Castro dictatorship.  We are steadfastly opposed to opening up the University of Miami to this poisonous exchange.
  • That the University/Institute rescinds the appointment of Dr. Andy Gomez as ICCAS interim director. Dr. Gomez has been publicly recognized for promoting ventures with commercial enterprises that do business with Cuba under its totalitarian regime. Dr. Gomez’ as interim director will further divide the Cuban American community from the University of Miami, rather than bridging the divide that has been created.
  •  That the University/Institute formally include the Cuban American community in the search committee for the new interim director and the permanent director of ICCAS.

It is our sincere hope that our fellow Cuban Americans attending tomorrow’s meeting make the above recommendations their own.  Institutional engagement between our beloved University of Miami and the murderous Castro Regime, and safeguarding the objectivity and integrity of ICCAS are essential concerns of our community.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Miami United for Liberty in Venezuela at the Torch of Friendship

Activists and community leaders gather in solidarity with free Venezuelans

Activists and community leaders praying for freedom in Venezuela
 Free Cuba Foundation members joined with dozens of activists and community leaders this morning at the Torch of Friendship to let Venezuelans know that they are not alone.  Young Venezuelan musicians, Los Wizzards, played the Venezuelan national anthem and rapped their criticisms of the Maduro regime and calls for freedom. Unlike their compatriot, Wuilly Moisés Arteaga today imprisoned in Caracas, they did not have their musical instruments destroyed, were not shot in the face and not jailed when refusing to be silenced. Prayers for Venezuela opened and ended the activity that was organized and hosted by Nicholas David, Jaime Figueras, Jessica Fernandez, and Armando Ibarra.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Miami Unites for Liberty in Venezuela at the Torch of Freedom

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

This Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 11:00am at the Torch of Friendship located on 401 Biscayne Boulevard members of the Miami community will join together in support of freedom in Venezuela. The event is being organized through a Facebook campaign by Nicholas David, Jaime Figueras, Jessica Fernandez, and Armando Ibarra.

 Regime snipers shot young demonstrators in the head while regime agents raided the homes of opposition politicians in the dead of night to take them away to parts unknown. Maduro regime snipers were spotted this past Sunday, August 30th on roof tops shooting peaceful protesters in the head. At 4:29pm Blanco tweeted: "Adrián Rodríguez (13) was assassinated in Capacho, Táchira. Army sniper shot him in the head from the roof of a school."  At 8:18pm he tweeted: "Ender Peña died (18), shot by bullet during protest in Táchira. Transferred to a polyclinic, he didn't survive the operation." A few minutes later at 8:36pm Blanco tweeted: "Conflict escalation is very obvious. Weeks ago military fired tear gas into the chest, now firing with rifles to the head." 

Venezuela is on the brink of turning into a totalitarian communist regime. It has been a dictatorship since at least October 20, 2016 when the decision of Venezuelan voters to hold a recall referendum was illegally blocked by Nicolas Maduro. However the vote this past Sunday (manipulated to inflate the number of participants by the dictatorship) was to do away with the National Assembly and opposition parties. If implemented this would turn Venezuela into another Cuba. 

Two weeks earlier on July 16, 2017 over seven million Venezuelans voted in a non-binding plebiscite rejecting the Constituent Assembly of the Maduro regime. A general strike was successfully carried out and despite regime violence and a prohibition to protest Venezuelans still took to the streets in anti-Maduro demonstrations.

The response of the Maduro regime and their Cuban advisors has been to escalate the violence and target nonviolent protesters. Consider the plight of Wuilly Moisés Arteaga, a young man playing the national anthem with his violin at a protest, was told to shut up and was shot in the face last Saturday. From his hospital bed he said that he would return to protest in the streets, and he did. He was arrested on Thursday, July 29th beaten up and tortured for protesting against the Maduro regime to the degree that he has lost hearing in his right ear and remains jailed. This is reminiscent of Cuba not a democracy. 

For Cubans, August 5th is a special date when 23 years ago across Havana mass protests occurred calling for freedom and an end to the Castro regime. The response was a brutal crackdown and a mass exodus, but the desire to be free remains. 

Now is the time to stand up and protest for freedom in Venezuela and to demonstrate our solidarity with Venezuelans. The folks organizing the protest at the Torch of Freedom put it succinctly:
Dictator Nicholas Maduro stripped Venezuelan citizens of their freedoms, jailed and murdered innocent people, impoverished his whole nation, exiled hundreds of thousands, and extinguished democracy and rule of law. This is an atrocity.

We are ONE community of Venezuelan and Cuban exiles, Latinos, and Americans united in the fight for freedom and against socialism. We share the historical tragedy of losing a nation to despotism.

Please join us and thousands of friends united in solidarity with the Venezuelan people. We will be joined by elected officials, civic leaders, and opposition figures to show the world that we stand for freedom.

Saturday, August 5th, 2017
11am - 2pm
Bayfront Park - The Torch of Friendship
301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, FL 33132

For more information visit the Facebook event page.