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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.

#LiberenLosYa
#FreeThemNow
#FreedomForPoliticalPrisoners
#LibertadParaLosPresosPoliticos
#CubaNicaraguaVenezuela
#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

Friday, July 13, 2018

13 minute silent vigil for July's martyrs on July 13 at FIU, in Washington DC, and California

Remembering three terrible days in July.

2018 marks 24 years since the massacre of 37 Cubans on July 13, 1994 when they tried to flee the island on board the Cuban tugboat "13 de marzo" by agents of the Castro regime. The crime was well documented by international human rights organizations and institutions.

July 13 also marks the death one year ago today of Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo in the custody of the Chinese secret police.


July also marks six years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero were killed by Cuban state security agents on July 22, 2012.  


We gathered in silent protest for 13 minutes at the main fountain at Florida International University demanding justice for the victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and for martyrs Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.


The event concluded with reading out the names of Oswaldo and Harold killed on July 22, 2012 and the 37 victims of the July 13, 1994 attack.

In Washington, DC veteran activist Frank Calzon, with other activists, took part in the vigil outside of the Cuban Embassy at 12 noon and tried to turn in a document with the victims names to Embassy officials but they refused the document.

Ziva Sahl based in California joined the vigil

In California, Ziva Sahl joined in the 13 minute vigil at 12 noon and posted it on Twitter.

We will continue to remember and demand justice. Please join us next year where ever you are.

July 13, 2018 Medical Neglect

Liu Xiaobo, Age: 61

July 22, 2012 Extrajudicial Killings

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas. Age: 60
Harold Cepero Escalante. Age: 32

July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre Victims

Hellen Martínez Enriquez. Age: 5 Months
Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández. Age: 2
Angel René Abreu Ruíz. Age: 3
José Carlos Niclas Anaya. Age: 3
Giselle Borges Alvarez. Age: 4
Caridad Leyva Tacoronte. Age: 5
Juan Mario Gutiérrez García. Age: 10
Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte. Age: 11
Yasser Perodín Almanza. Age: 11
Eliécer Suárez Plasencia. Age: 12
Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte. Age: 17
Miladys Sanabria Leal. Age: 19
Joel García Suárez. Age: 20
Odalys Muñoz García. Age: 21
Yalta Mila Anaya Carrasco. Age: 22
Luliana Enríquez Carrazana. Age: 22
Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo. Age: 24
Lissett María Alvarez Guerra. Age: 24
Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro. Age: 25
María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez. Age: 27
Leonardo Notario Góngora. Age: 28
Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores. Age: 28
Pilar Almanza Romero. Age: 31
Rigoberto Feu González. Age: 31
Omar Rodríguez Suárez. Age: 33
Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel. Age: 34
Julia Caridad Ruíz Blanco. Age: 35
Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega. Age: 35
Eduardo Suárez Esquivel. Age: 38
Martha Mirella Carrasco Sanabria. Age: 45
Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez. Age: 45
Rosa María Alcalde Puig. Age: 47
Estrella Suárez Esquivel. Age: 48
Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo. Age: 48
Amado González Raices. Age: 50
Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández. Age: 51
Manuel Cayol. Age: 56 


Saturday, July 7, 2018

13 minute silent vigil for July's Cuban martyrs on July 13 at FIU's main fountain at 12 noon

Remembering two terrible days in July in Cuba


2018 marks 24 years since the massacre of 37 Cubans on July 13, 1994 when they tried to flee the island on board the Cuban tugboat "13 de marzo" by Castro regime agents. The crime was well documented by international human rights organizations and institutions. July will mark six years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero were killed by Cuban state security agents on July 22, 2012.


FCF members together with Sirley Avila Leon hold vigil at FIU in 2017
We will gather in silent protest at the main fountain at Florida International University and demand justice for the victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre and for martyrs Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero.



FCF members together with Rosa Maria Payá hold vigil at FIU in 2016
Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo, Oswaldo's daughter, protesting in front of the Cuban Interests Section on July 10, 2014 observed a profound truth: "State crimes are never an issue exclusive to the families of the victims." In 2016 she accompanied Free Cuba Foundation members at Florida International University in a 13 minute moment of silence for July's Cuban martyrs.

Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel explained in his 1986 Nobel Lecture why it is important to remember:  "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." ... "There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." This is why we protest.

What:   13 Minute Silent Vigil
When:  Friday, July 13 at 12 noon
Where: Main Fountain at Florida International University
             [Between Library, and Charles Perry (PC) building]
Why:    Remember and Demand Justice for the Slain

July 22, 2012 Extrajudicial Killings

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas. Age: 60
Harold Cepero Escalante. Age: 32

July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre Victims

Hellen Martínez Enriquez. Age: 5 Months
Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández. Age: 2
Angel René Abreu Ruíz. Age: 3
José Carlos Niclas Anaya. Age: 3
Giselle Borges Alvarez. Age: 4
Caridad Leyva Tacoronte. Age: 5
Juan Mario Gutiérrez García. Age: 10
Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte. Age: 11
Yasser Perodín Almanza. Age: 11
Eliécer Suárez Plasencia. Age: 12
Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte. Age: 17
Miladys Sanabria Leal. Age: 19
Joel García Suárez. Age: 20
Odalys Muñoz García. Age: 21
Yalta Mila Anaya Carrasco. Age: 22
Luliana Enríquez Carrazana. Age: 22
Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo. Age: 24
Lissett María Alvarez Guerra. Age: 24
Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro. Age: 25
María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez. Age: 27
Leonardo Notario Góngora. Age: 28
Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores. Age: 28
Pilar Almanza Romero. Age: 31
Rigoberto Feu González. Age: 31
Omar Rodríguez Suárez. Age: 33
Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel. Age: 34
Julia Caridad Ruíz Blanco. Age: 35
Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega. Age: 35
Eduardo Suárez Esquivel. Age: 38
Martha Mirella Carrasco Sanabria. Age: 45
Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez. Age: 45
Rosa María Alcalde Puig. Age: 47
Estrella Suárez Esquivel. Age: 48
Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo. Age: 48
Amado González Raices. Age: 50
Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández. Age: 51
Manuel Cayol. Age: 56  


These crimes are not isolated but part of a pattern of extreme cruelty by the Castro regime. For those who advocate forgiveness and reconciliation in Cuba, the Free Cuba Foundation agrees with you, but we leave an important caveat first stated by Lewis B. Smedes, a theologian: When you give up vengeance, make sure you are not giving up on justice.

In the spirit of remembrance be sure to purchase the new book written by Cuban martyr Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in the months prior to his untimely death and the book on July 13, 1994 tugboat massacre written by Jose Garcia. The long awaited book "The night will not be eternal" by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas is available today on Amazon and published by Editorial Hypermedia Inc. In 2017 the third edition of The sinking of the 13 de Marzo tugboat was released and is also available for purchase.

Friday, May 4, 2018

FCF human rights report included in upcoming human rights session on Cuba in Geneva on May 16, 2018

FCF submission to the UPR included by office of the UN High Commissioner in Stakeholder's information


Free Cuba Foundation Submission to the Universal Periodic Review of Cuba
30th session of the UPR Working Group, April - May 2018

Summary
 The human rights situation in Cuba over the past four years has impacted us directly with a founding member being physically assaulted on April 8, 2015 by Cuban officials in Panama who violently disrupted a peaceful gathering and shut it down.

Fidel Castro died on November 25, 2016 and human rights defenders who refused to mourn his passing were arrested, detained and placed on trial. When a human rights defender and pro-democracy activist spoke honestly about Mr. Castro’s legacy in Cuba he was beaten up in front of his family on November 30, 2017, jailed and sentenced to three years in prison in March of 2017.

Physical violence carried out by government agents in Panama City, Panama on April 8, 2015
Cuban officials attacked Cuban and Cuban American activists in 2015 on eve of the Summit of the Americas. Mr. Augusto Monge was physically assaulted, along with several other activists and human rights defenders, on April 8, 2015 in Panama City at Porra Park while joining with other Cuban Americans and Cuban internal opposition activists in laying flowers at a bust of Jose Marti in that public park. The attack had all the hallmarks of "acts of repudiation" carried out by "rapid response brigades" organized by state security in Cuba. What was different is that this was carried out in Panama. Augusto made the following report of what took place.

"We left some roses, we were singing the Cuban national anthem and at that moment a group of government agents came out of the nearby Cuban Embassy running, they crossed the street and began to beat up everyone, including some of the women in the group. There were police, but very few to respond. We were again attacked while trying to board the bus to leave. We were a group of about twenty, including the drivers, and seven of us were injured. Among them were myself, Augusto Monge, Orlando Gutierrez Boronat, Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antúnez”, Leticia Ramos Herrería, Yris Pérez Aguilera, and Silvia Iriondo.

Mr. Monge is a founding member of the Free Cuba Foundation and past chairman of the organization. He suffered two black eyes, and several bruises and contusions. This attack violated several articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Article 2. of the UDHR states that all are "entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status." Representatives of the Cuban government sought to shut down a peaceful assembly because they did not believe that the individuals gathered had the right to exercise their rights due to their opposition to the existing government in Cuba.

Also violated on the same basis were "Article 3. Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person." and "Article 6. Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law." The Cuban government did not respect the rights of this persons before the law or their right to be secure in their persons. This is also a violation of Article 7 of the UDHR hat reads in part "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. "

Official writer and university professor, Raúl Antonio Capote, self-identified as agent Daniel for Cuban State Security wrote an article on his blog "Diario 90 Noventa" libeling Orlando Gutierrez as a terrorist and referring to other participants as his puppets in an article published on April 14, 2015. This was a violation of Article 12 of the UDHR because it was an attack upon the "honour and reputation" of those peacefully gathered in Porra Park and assaulted by Cuban government agents on April 8, 2015.

The violent shutting down of a peaceful gathering by agents who emerged from the Cuban Embassy in Panama also violated Article 18 of the UDHR that everyone "has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion," Article 19. "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference..." and Article 20. (1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association."

The actions carried out by Cuban government agents run counter to the Charter of the United Nations and its determination "to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person" and "to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbors."

Death of Fidel Castro and wave of repression against freedom of expression and non-participation.

Eduardo Cardet Concepción was sentenced to three years in prison on March 20, 2017 following a political show trial on March 3, 2017. Cardet has been jailed following a brutal beating by Castro's political police in front of his family on November 30, 2016. Cardet's offense was speaking critically of Fidel Castro, following his death on November 25, 2016 and being the national coordinator of Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement. The previous national coordinator Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas died under suspicious circumstances in a car crash along with the movement’s youth leader, Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012 in Cuba. Mr. Cardet Concepción is a physician, husband, and a father of two.

Twin sisters Anairis and Adairis Miranda Leyva, their brother Fidel Manuel Batista Leyva, and their mother Maydolis Leyva Portelles left their homes during the official state imposed mourning period following the death of Fidel Castro and were arrested on November 27, 2016. The three siblings were sentenced to one-year in prison for “defamation of institutions, organizations and heroes and martyrs of the Republic of Cuba” and “public disorder” and the mother to house arrest. On April 2, 2017, after a long hunger-strike, the three siblings were released under conditional release. This means that the charges were not dropped but that those convicted are allowed to spend the remainder of their sentences outside prison. Their mother remains under house arrest. They continue to suffer harassment and intimidation from Cuban officials.

Economist Karina Gálvez Chiu was sentenced to to three years of deprivation of liberty and the confiscation of her home for the alleged crime of tax evasion. Cuba does not have an independent judiciary and the trial appears to have the objective of shutting down the headquarters of of the Center for Coexistence studies (CEC). Gálvez Chiu’s home was the meeting place for this independent project. It is the second time that the civil society group has lost a meeting place. The first time was in 2009 when the meeting place, located in her parent’s yard was confiscated and closed. The court ruling said that the conviction seeks to “make the defendant understand” the seriousness of the crime and also “serve to educate the people in general.”

Free Cuba Foundation Recommendations to the Cuban State
  • End the acts of repudiation carried out by rapid response brigades organized by government agents both inside and outside of Cuba. 
  • Free all political prisoners.
  • Respect and recognize the right to freedom of expression and association. This includes not participating in activities.
  • Recognize independent civil society organizations.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Family members, students and university community hold silent vigil at FIU for Brothers to the Rescue martyrs

Remembering and honoring Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa, Mario Manuel de la Peña, and Pablo Morales.

Silent vigil for justice today at Florida International University (Photo Alvaro Mata)
Family members, students and members of the university community held a silent vigil for justice for the four victims of the February 24, 1996 shoot down. The vigil took place at the main fountain at Florida International University located between the Charles E. Perry Bldg. and the Green Library on February 26, Monday from 3:21pm to 3:27pm the times both planes were shot down. Family members and students began to gather at 3:15pm.

Family members hold vigil at FIU for their loved ones. (Photo: Alvaro Mata)
 2018 marks 22 years since Fidel and Raul Castro ordered Cuban MiGs to shoot down two Brothers to theRescue 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 for Human Rights on the merits made public in 1999 concluded: that the Castro regime was legally responsible for their murders and for the lack of justice.

Students, staff, and members of the FIU community took part in the vigil today.
 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.

Former prisoner of conscience Regis Iglesias, together with family, friends at vigil
Among the attendees today was Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman of the Christian Liberation Movement and former prisoner of conscience, who paid his respects to the victims and their family members.


Regis Iglesias Ramirez pays his respects to the four martyrs
On Saturday, February 24, 2018 in Cuba several opposition activists were detained while attempting to pay homage to the victims of the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.