Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Legacy of Jose Antonio Echeverria discussed at Florida International University

For more information visit the Jose Antonio Echeverria Foundation and read a reflection on the legacy of "13 de Marzo."


 "The Urban Insurrection Against Batista: The Life and Times of Jose Antonio Echeverria" at Florida International University was held on August 27, 2014 at 7:30PM in Graham Center 150 on the South Campus located on Southwest Eighth Street. Present among the scholars and academics was Lucy Echeverría, the sister of Jose Antonio Echeverria.



 It was a symposium commemorating José Antonio Echeverría's life and role in 1950s Cuba in the struggle against Fulgencio Batista. Lucy Echeverría on her brother's leadership at the University of Havana: "My brother held the presidency of the Federation of University Students (FEU) four times elected by overwhelmingly majorities. There the troubles began with Castro. As he never became president, he always kept that inside." Also of interest for scholars was how the Echeverria family rejected the Castro regime's totalitarian turn to dictatorship and how they ended up in exile by 1961.

According to Lucy, objects found in the Birthplace Museum of  José Antonio Echeverría in Cárdenas do not belong to her brother and in a televised tribute done in Cuba, the supposed parents of the martyred leaders were presented, while the real ones were already exiled in the United States.

José Antonio Echeverría addressing students

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Under Constant Threat: Antúnez and Yris

On August 20, 2014 Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" made public an open letter to Raul Castro in which he denounced fraudulent reforms, and the murders of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero in Cuba and declared that national reconciliation necessitates justice, freedom and democracy. In the video below Antúnez read aloud the letter. Further down below we reproduce a letter sent to use by the Czech NGO People in Need that lays out how Antúnez and his wife Yris are under constant threat.

 

From the Czech NGO, People in Need:

Dear Journalist,

Officially there is no use of torture or human rights abuses against political dissidents in Cuba. However, People in Need would like to draw your attention to the case of Jorge Luis García Pérez known as Antúnez, a Cuban dissident, who has been repeatedly arrested, beaten, had his house vandalized and has been under house arrest.

Under constant threat

Antúnez, a well-known Cuban activist, was imprisoned for 17 years from 1990 to 2007. His offense? Screaming out during a demonstration in the 90s that communism was a mistake and that Cuba was a dystopia.  

Jorge Luis García Pérez, who is better known as Antúnez and his wife Yris Perez Aguilera, were arrested last June, this time over fears that the dissident might represent a threat to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the USA. He was caught disseminating leaflets against this normalization in his home town of Placetas. The cause may have also been his repeated trips to Europe and the US, when he took the opportunity to speak about the current realities of the dissidents in Cuba.

During his last arrest in June, Antúnez claimed he was severely beaten and tortured. He admitted that he had never received such violent treatment on any of the other occasions when he was arrested. They were both released, but were immediately put under arrest again the next day. His wife and he have been unfairly arrested; extensively interrogated while in custody and their house was vandalized by the police forces.

Since then, due to international pressure, he was released from house arrest and the charges with “public disorder” against him were dropped, only to be restored shortly after: Antúnez is under house arrest again and will face charges in a coming trial.

Recently in Miami, his wife, Yris Pérez Aguilera has spoken out loud about the repression under which the dissidents find themselves on a daily basis. She also stressed the harsh reality that once back in Cuba, she will face again repression for the truths she had spoken in the USA.

We are unfortunately witnessing a rise in the wave of repression by the Cuban government dissidents, such as Antúnez and his wife, and independent journalists, like Roberto de Jesus Guerra, Martha Beatriz Roque, have been arrested or beaten by the State Police.

Antúnez is a classic example of enduring courage and resilience:

After being discriminated against by the regime’s policy towards minorities, which prevented him from growing professionally and getting the education he wanted, and being inspired by the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, he joined the Cuban opposition in the 90s. He founded Frente Nacional de Resistencia Civica Orlando Zapata Tamayo in memory of the dissident who died during a hunger strike in 2010. 

During his long years in prison, Antúnez formed a new movement to support his fellow political prisoners, called Pedro Luis Boitel after the political prisoner who died of a hunger strike in 1972. Throughout his years of imprisonment he remained firm on his positions - he refused to wear a prisoner’s uniform or to recant his ideas. Due to his defiance of the regime’s authority on several occasions, his five year sentence was extended to seventeen years.

His wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera has also founded a movement, The Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, which has strongly advocated for an end to repression towards peaceful human rights defenders. She has been repeatedly threatened with death and rape, beaten and jailed.

In honor of Antúnez’s and Yris Perez’s continued fight for the respect of human rights and basic freedoms in Cuba, in spite of being well aware of the risks involved, People in Need is appealing to you to share their story and make sure that their worrying situation is known.


Sincerely,
Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy
Cubalog.eu - rewriting Cuba, EyeOnCuba.org

==================================================

Estimado periodista,


Oficialmente no hay uso de  tortura o abusos de derechos humanos contra los disidentes políticos en Cuba. Sin embargo, a People in Need le gustaría llamar su atención sobre el caso de Jorge Luis García Pérez, conocido como Antúnez, un disidente cubano, que ha sido detenido en varias ocasiones, golpeado, le han vandalisado su casa y ha estado bajo arresto domiciliario.

Bajo amenaza constante

Antunez, un conocido activista cubano, fue encarcelado durante 17 años entre 1990 y 2007. ¿Su delito? Haber gritado durante una manifestación en los años 90 que el comunismo era un error y que Cuba era una distopía. 

Jorge Luis García Pérez, más conocido como Antúnez y su esposa, Yris Pérez Aguilera, fueron detenidos el   pasado junio, esta vez por temor a que el disidente pudiese representar una amenaza para la normalización de las relaciones entre Cuba y EE.UU. Fue capturado por distribuir panfletos contra esta normalización de las relaciones en su ciudad natal, Placetas. La motivación tras su detención podría encontrarse en sus repetidos viajes a Europa y los EE.UU., en donde tuvo la oportunidad de hablar sobre la realidad actual de los disidentes en Cuba. 

Durante su última detención, en el mes de junio, Antúnez declaró haber sido golpeado y maltratado. Afirmó no haber recibido nunca un trato tan violento durante cualquiera de las otras ocasiones en que fue detenido. Ambos  fueron liberados, pero de nuevo puestos bajo arresto al día siguiente. Su esposa y él han sido detenidos injustamente y exhaustivamente interrogados durante su detención y su casa ha sido vandalizada por las fuerzas policiales.

Desde entonces, debido a la presión internacional, ha sido liberado de su arresto domiciliario y los cargos por "desorden público" en su contra han sido retirados. Aunque sólo para restaurarlos poco después: Antunez se encuentra de nuevo bajo arresto domiciliario y deberá someterse a juicio.
Recientemente en Miami, su esposa, Yris Pérez Aguilera, ha hablado en voz alta sobre la represión a las que los disidentes se ven sometidos a diario. También destacó la dura realidad de que, una vez de regreso a Cuba, se enfrentará una vez más a la represión debido a las declaraciones hechas durante su viaje por los EE.UU.

Por desgracia estamos asistiendo a un aumento de la represión por parte del Gobierno Cubano contra los disidentes, como Antúnez y su esposa, y los periodistas independientes, como Roberto de Jesús Guerra y Martha Beatriz Roque, que han sido detenidos o golpeados por la Policía Estatal. 

Antunez es un ejemplo clásico de perdurable valor y resistencia:

Después de ser discriminado por la política del régimen hacia las minorías, lo que le impidió crecer profesionalmente y conseguir la educación que él anhelaba, se unió inspirado en la caída del comunismo en Europa del Este a la oposición cubana en los años 90. Fundó el Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo en la memoria del disidente que murió durante una huelga de hambre en 2010. 

Durante sus largos años de prisión, Antunez formó un nuevo movimiento para apoyar a los presos políticos, llamado Pedro Luis Boitel en memoria de este preso político que murió a causa de una huelga de hambre en 1972. A lo largo de sus años de prisión se mantuvo firme en sus posiciones - se negó a llevar un uniforme de prisionero o a renunciar a sus convicciones. Debido a su constante desafío a las autoridades del Régimen, su condena de cinco años se amplió a diecisiete años. 

Su esposa, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, también ha fundado un movimiento, el Movimiento Feminista Rosa Parks para los Derechos Civiles, que aboga por el fin de la represión contra los defensores pacíficos de los derechos humanos. Ella ha recibido repetidas amenazas de muerte y violación, golpizas y ha sido varias encarcelada varias veces.

En honor a la lucha continua de Antunez e Yris Pérez por el respeto a los derechos humanos y las libertades fundamentales en Cuba, a pesar de ser conscientes de los riesgos involucrados, desde People in Need apelamos a vosotros para que compartáis su historia. Queremos asegurarnos de que su situación se conozca y la represión contra ellos cese.


Atentamente,
Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy
Cubalog.eu - rewriting Cuba, EyeOnCuba.org
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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Venezuela has not forgotten Bassil Da Costa

Today marks six months since the murder of Bassil Da Costa. Liliana Tintori remembers and demands justice. Over social media scores of Venezuelans using the hashtag #VzlaNoOlvida (Venezuela Does Not Forget) remembered 24 year old Bassil Da Costa who was shot in the head on February 12, 2014 while peacefully protesting that his mother had not gotten medical care after waiting and suffering great pain for months.


Bassil Alejandro Da Costa
Bassil Alejandro Da Costa was shot in the head in Caracas on February 12, 2014 from shots fired by a group of police men and his killing was captured from different angles on three different cameras. He was 24 years old. His last message on Facebook: "He who is here tomorrow goes out marching without fear of anything and hoping to find a better future."

 
Due to the public outrage over the killing eight government functionaries have been charged in the killing, only one of which is being held in custody while awaiting trial.



Venezuela has not forgotten Bassil Alejandro Da Costa nor have we. Justice for Bassil and all those murdered by the Maduro regime for peacefully exercising their rights in the hope of a better future for Venezuela.

A hero remembered: Robert Redman (age 28) murdered six months ago


"Today I was hit with a rock in the back, a helmet in my nose. I swallowed tear-gas, Carried the kid who died, and what did you do?" - Robert Redman, age 28 over twitter on February 12, 2014 (English translation of above tweet) Tweeted shortly before he was shot and killed the same day.


Robert Redman circled in centro of photo
The above photo was taken while Robert was trying to get Bassil Alejandro Da Costa medical attention after he had been shot in the head by members of SEBIN, the Maduro regime's intelligence service. Bassil was already dead. Hours later Robert was also shot in the head and killed.


Robert's question remains extremely relevant six months later. "What did you do?" which raises another important question: "What are you doing?"


"We do not have to take justice into our own hands but it is in our hands." #ThatJusticeBeDone
- Alfredo Romero

Monday, August 4, 2014

Maleconazo at 20: The Havana Uprising of August 5, 1994

"Apart from the distances: in China they tried to erase what happened in Tiananmen Square and in #Cuba the Maleconazo."  - Yoani Sánchez, over twitter on June 3, 2014

 "I remember Tiananmen I remember the Maleconazo and presently I remember Venezuela and you, what do you remember?" - Yoani Sánchez, over twitter on June 3, 2014

Maleconazo: Mass protests in Havana, Cuba on August 5, 1994
Yoani Sánchez makes an important observation above the regimes in China and Cuba want to erase the inconvenient facts and historical events that are in conflict with the official narrative. Tiananmen Square and the Maleconazo are two such episodes that have important anniversaries in 2014. The massacre in Tiananmen was 25 years ago on June 4, 1989 and the Maleconazo marks 20 years on August 5, 1994. 

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter describes below what happened on August 5, 1994 and its historic importance:
500 Cubans gathered on August 5, 1994 on the pier "de la Luz", to take the launch that goes to Regla and Casablanca because there was a rumor that it would again be diverted to Florida. It was a rumor of a path to freedom that these 500 people had seized upon. Military trucks arrived and announced the suspension of the launches departure and dispersed the crowd.  People walking along the Malecón (The Havana Sea Wall)  joined the dispersed crowd and gathered near the  Castillo de la Real Fuerza (Castle of the Royal Force). A thousand Cubans began to march shouting Freedom through the streets of Havana.  That 500 Cubans would gather to flee the island is not a new phenomenon but that another 500 would join them  to march and call for freedom was something new and an unexpected development for the security services.  After marching for a kilometer, a hundred Special Brigade members and plain clothes police confronted the protesters. The demonstrators dispersed into the neighborhood of Central Havana, burning rubbish bins, smashing the windows of the dollar stores and clashing with the police with stones and sticks. Regime agents responded with physical beat downs, several gun shots and their own mobilization of repressive actors.
One thousands Cubans marching through Havana chanting "Freedom!" and "Down with Castro"  The sounds and images of that day have been captured on video and its impact is felt two decades later in music and art.




 It is also important that the images of plain clothes state security aiming their guns at an unarmed protest in a manner that indicates they were shooting must also be remembered and widely distributed.

Maleconazo: Regime agents aiming their guns at protesters
It is also important to recall on the evening of August 5, 1994, the dictator, Fidel Castro took to the airwaves to justify and defend the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre that had taken place on July 13, 1994.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

People in Need: Ladies in White repeatedly repressed


(**Leer Versión En Español Abajo**)

How would you feel if you were innocent but still thrown in jail each Sunday?

As a result of the Ladies in White movement continuing to be a target of Cuban state authorities, the Czech NGO People in Need would like to bring greater  public attention to two cases of Ladies in White members who have been forced to contend with constant repression over the last two years.

Keila Ramos Suarez is 28 years old. She has been detained and assaulted 15 times between March 2013 and April 2014.
Due to the fact that her family doesn’t agree with the political opinions she holds, she has been repressed to an even greater extent. She has been thrown out of her house and left to live on the street. Furthermore, her son has been taken away from her by state authorities on account of her dissident activities. She has regularly been arrested before the weekly Ladies in White marches held on Sundays or been given orders that prevent her from participating in the Mass.

Maria Teresa Gracias Rojas is 48 years old. She has been detained and assaulted 39 times between January 2013 and March 2014.
The state police organized a so called search of her house during which all of her belongings were destroyed; she was assaulted, and subjected to acts of repudiation and intimidation. She has been under constant surveillance, including having a police patrol car permanently parked in front of her house. She has been prevented from participating in the Ladies in White marches almost every Sunday during this time span. The police usually arrest her either just outside of her residence or in front of the local church. We would like to stress the gravity of the fact that she happened to be assaulted directly by the priest as well. Her situation has been made all the more difficult due to her daughter’s health problems for which she hasn’t been receiving any help.

The scripts and tactics the authorities use are almost always the same:
One of them is to detain members of the Ladies in White before the Sunday Mass, so that they cannot participate in their weekly protest by taking part in their common walk to the church. They are brought to the local police station for several hours where they are placed under constant psychological and physical distress: the police agents have been beating, humiliating and threatening to jail them for years, while also openly threatening to harm their families if they don’t stop their dissident activities. The Ladies in White protest every Sunday dressed in white, as a symbol of peace, in order to demand freedom for the their relatives who are jailed dissidents, as well as on behalf of all other political prisoners.
The other tactic is to organize public acts of repudiation against them in order to cause them distress, while also intimidating and frightening them.  Usually small groups of people are brought to the dissidents’ residence who then shout insults at them, throw stones at their houses and threaten them.
Why have these brave women kept on fighting their battle despite the pressure they find themselves under? Their answer is simple and clear: they want change and freedom for their loved ones and the people of Cuba.

The NGO People in Need condemns the repression that the Cuban authorities have directed towards Keila and Maria Teresa, as well as towards all the Ladies in White, and ask for them to comply with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to which Cuba is a signatory.

The regular weekly march was harshly repressed in Havana, as well as in the provinces, following the announcement of celebrations in memory of the victims of “13th of March” Tugboat that was sunk in 1994. A total of 89 Ladies in White, among which the leader of the movement, Berta Soler, and 9 men who participated in the march were arrested.

The Ladies in White Movement was initiated in the aftermath of the Black Spring in 2003, when the Cuban government arrested and summarily tried and sentenced 75 human rights defenders, independent journalists, and independent librarians to terms of up to 28 years in prison. The initiator was Laura Pollan, the wife of one of the jailed activists, Hector Maseda. Each member of the march carries a picture of her jailed relative and the number of years to which he has been sentenced.

Sincerely,
Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy
Cubalog.eu - rewriting Cuba, EyeOnCuba.org

==================================================

¿Cómo te sentirias de ser inocente, pero encarcelado cada domingo? 

Como las Damas de Blanco siguen estando en el punto de mira de las autoridades estatales cubanas la ONG Checa People in Need, desearía señalar a la atención del público dos casos de Damas de Blanco que han estado bajo la represión constante en los últimos dos años. 

Keila Ramos Suárez tiene 28 años. Desde marzo 2013 hasta abril de 2014 ha sido detenida y asaltada por 15 veces. 
Como su familia no está de acuerdo con las opiniones políticas que ella tiene, ella ha sido reprimida ademas, ha sido expulsada de su casa, encontrandose en la calle. Su hijo le ha sido quitado por las autoridades estatales, debido a sus actividades disidentes. Ella esta detenida constantemente antes de la marcha dominical semanal  que hacen las Damas de Blanco , para evitar que participara en la misa.

Maria Teresa Gracias Rojas tiene 48 años. Ella ha sido detenida y asaltada 39 veces desde enero 2013 hasta marzo 2014. 
La policía del estado le ha organizado un registro en su casa: todas sus pertenencias fueron destruidas;fue asaltada, y sometida a actos de repudio y intimidación. Ella esta bajo vigilancia constante, con una patrulla de la policía permanentemente estacionada frente a su casa. Casi todos los domingos se le impida participar en la marcha de las Damas de Blanco. La policía le arresta o a las afueras de su residencia o en frente de la iglesia local. Nos gustaría hacer hincapié en la gravedad del hecho de que le pasó ser asaltada por el mismo sacerdote también. Su situación se hace aún más difícil por su hija que tiene problemas de salud por los que no recibe ningún tipo de ayuda. 

 Los guiones que las autoridades utilizan son casi siempre los mismos: 
Uno de ellos es detenerlas antes de la misa de domingo, por lo que no pueden continuar su protesta semanal en su paseo común a la iglesia. Son llevadas a la comisaría de policía local por varias horas donde están constantemente bajo estrés psicológico y físico: los agentes de policía las golpean, humillan y amenazan  a la cárcel durante años o amenazan con dañar a sus familias si no se cesan sus actividades disidentes. Las Damas de Blanco protestan todos los domingos vestida de blanco, como símbolo de la paz, con el fin de exigir la libertad de los de sus parientes que son disidentes encarcelados y de todos los demás presos políticos. 
La otra es la de organizar actos públicos de repudio en contra de ellas con el fin de causar angustia,  intimidación y asustarlas: Pequeños grupos de personas son llevados a la residencia de los disidentes y gritan insultos contra ellas, lanzan piedras contra sus casas y las amenazan. 
¿Por qué continuan estas valientes mujeres a librar la batalla, a pesar de la presión a la que se encuentran bajo? Su respuesta es simple y clara: quieren un cambio y la libertad para ellas y su pueblo. 

Las ONG People in Need condena la represión de las autoridades cubanas hacia Keila y María Teresa, así como hacia todos las Damas de Blanco y pregunta por el cumplimiento de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos de los cuales Cuba es signataria. 

La marcha semanal habitual fue duramente reprimida en La Habana, sino también en las provincias, tras el anuncio de las celebraciones en memoria de las víctimas del Remolcador 13 de marzo que hundieron en 1994. 89 Damas de Blanco, entre cuales Berta Soler, lider del movimiento,  y 9 hombres que participaron en la marcha fueron arrestados.

El movimiento  Damas de Blanco se inició sobre las secuelas de la primavera Negro en 2003, cuando el gobierno cubano arrestó y sumariamente juzgo y condeno 75 defensores de los derechos humanos, periodistas independientes y bibliotecarios independientes a penas de hasta 28 años de prisión. El iniciador fue Laura Pollán, esposa de uno de los activistas encarcelados, Héctor Maseda. Cada manifestante lleva una foto de su pariente encarcelado y el número de años para los que ha sido condenado.

Atentamente,
Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy
Cubalog.eu - rewriting Cuba, EyeOnCuba.org
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Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Christian Liberation Movement's Hardline

Hardline: an uncompromising or unyielding stand, especially in politics. One of the earliest documents of the Christian Liberation Movement that Free Cuba Foundation translated and reproduced at the time demonstrates the movement's hardline against violence, terrorism and hatred while embracing principled nonviolence.

On June 11, 1991 Oswaldo's home is attacked and vandalized

July 24, 1997

Declaration From the Christian Liberation Movement.

CHRISTIAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT, Havana, July 22, 1997. DECLARATION: A few days ago, bombs exploded in two hotels in Havana. Neither the perpetrators nor the objectives of these terrorist acts have identified themselves. But in any case, such acts are reprehensible. We reject them and they should not serve to confuse Cubans. 

When defending their human rights, proclaiming the truth and proposing a peaceful transition to democracy, many of our fellow countrymen have endured threats, discrimination, acts of harassment, arbitrary incarcerations, beatings and cruel treatment by repressive agents, and political and judicial authorities. 

However, neither we nor any of our brothers have renounced a peaceful transition through civic means. 

Furthermore, those who in the prisons receive serious mistreatment have not voiced words of hatred against their abusers, because for us the peaceful approach is not a tactic but something that arises out of a spirit of reconciliation and liberation which has prompted us to begin our struggle. 

No one can justify terrorist violence and attacks on defenseless human beings with any kind of reasoning, and much less by pretending to defend freedom and justice. Anyone who hides cynically to make attempts against human life violates the dignity of the human being and conspires against freedom and justice. 

The end does not justify the means. Lies and terror lead to death and fear. Truth and love produce freedom and life. 

FREEDOM AND LIFE, a phrase first pronounced by the Christian Liberation Movement in its Proclamation Document, continues to be the essence of the path and the goal that we are determined to follow. 

We denounce such acts of terror and violence, whoever their perpetrators may be…. 

This Document was drafted and signed in the City of Havana by the following founders of the Christian Liberation Movement:

Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas

Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez

Ramón Antunez Gonzalez

Miguel Saludes García