Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Hillary, Pitbull and the Embargo on the Dictatorship in Cuba

 The Question: Will Cuban exiles boycott Pitbull and punish Hillary Clinton at the voting booth?

Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) has a long tradition of defending human rights generally and taking the controversial stand that many may find unpopular while exercising our freedom of expression. Six years ago we defended Colombian musician Juanes's freedom of expression, denounced death threats against him while at the same time criticizing aspects of the concert he put on in Cuba.

FCF has also been out front in denouncing the concessions made by the Obama administration to the Castro regime in order to upgrade diplomatic relations from the previously existing interests sections to the current embassies.

While recognizing that people of good will can differ on the issue of economic sanctions on Cuba the Free Cuba Foundation finds problematic the manner in which Cuban American musician Pitbull has apparently called "to end the embargo on Cuba" on a bottle of vodka. The musician's apparent support of President Obama's Cuba policy is not a surprise because he campaigned for him in 2012. However tying the embargo to his vodka venture is surprising and could lead to a Boycott Pitbull effort taking off in social media.

Alcoholism in Cuba is a terrible problem in the populace and one of the tools that the dictatorship uses to maintain power. James Kirchnik, a fellow with the Foreign Policy Initiative and a correspondent for the Daily Beast, in the May 14, 2015 issue of National Review wrote about his experience traveling to Cuba and met with Lady in White leader Berta Soler who addressed the role of alcohol:
"'The government sells a lot of alcohol to occupy the minds of the people,' Soler tells me, an observation that makes a lot of sense once you’ve spent a few days in Cuba. Alcohol is plentiful and cheap. In the poor provincial city of Pinar del Rio, about a two-hour drive west of Havana, I saw a boy no older than 13 walking the streets with a half-empty bottle of beer. A discotheque there was, on a Saturday night, full of people ranging in age from mid teens to 40s; a bottle of Havana Club sets you back $6. Subsidizing the production of cheap alcohol so as to keep the population inebriated (and therefore distracted) is one of many tools that the Cuban regime learned from its erstwhile Soviet benefactor."
This reality combined with the commercial calculation and self promotion is disappointing. However the timing, coming so close to what is expected to be Hillary Clinton's July 31, 2015 attack on sanctions on the Castro regime, presents an opportunity to express dissatisfaction in former Secretary of State's jokes about the Cuban American community and Little Havana that appeared in an email exchange from 2009 now made public in 2015.

Candidates for public office in 2014 such as Charlie Christ who openly campaigned against the embargo and initially said he would visit Cuba, but then backed out of it lost in the governor's race in and Joe Garcia who had a double discourse on the matter did not get re-elected.

Just because Cuban Americans and Cuban exiles are not going to Versailles in large numbers to break Pitbull records doesn't mean that many are not upset and will boycott the artist in the future. For example, FCF has always rejected attacking artists or destroying music and will continue to do so. This is not an abandonment of principle but its full embrace as human rights defenders.

This does not mean that we cannot be critical.  FCF members joined together with hundreds of Cuban exiles in demonstrating their opposition to Obama's Cuba policy in December, January and June. This community has shown that we believe in freedom of speech, the right to dissent and now has a history of embracing nonviolent tactics, such as protests, boycotts, and the voting booth to respond in what we perceive as the best way to support the aspirations of the Cuban people to be free.

Continuing that tradition we hope to see you this Friday at 9:30am at Florida International University's Wertheim Performing Arts Center (WPAC) to greet Candidate Clinton who will be making her speech there at 11:00am with a nonviolent protest.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Three years without Oswaldo and Harold ...

 July 22nd will mark three years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed in what appears to have been a premeditated extrajudicial execution by Cuban state security. Join the  Payá family and Christian Liberation Movement in honoring their memory at 8pm in a special mass. Earlier that same day at 9:30am in Washington, DC the Human Rights Foundation will host a panel discussion at Georgetown to present its legal report on “The Case of Oswaldo Payá.


"The true Liberation is to always remember that humanity is not orphaned because we are all brothers, we are all children of God." - Oswaldo Payá

July 22, 2012 - July 22, 2015

Three years without Oswaldo and without Harold...

The family of Oswaldo Payá and his brothers in the Christian Liberation movement, would like for you to accompany us to the Eucharistic celebration, that in memory of their lives we will offer next July 22 in Our Lady of Charity (La Ermita) at 8 pm.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

FCF backs demands of Students for a Free Tibet for Tibetan Lama who died in Chinese prison

Beloved Buddhist monk dies in Chinese prison after 13 years of unjust imprisonment.


On the same day that we gathered at Florida International University to pay our respects for Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante killed on July 22, 2012 and the 37 victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de marzo"tugboat massacre members of Students for a Free Tibet stormed the Chinese consulate in New York City to protest the death of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. The Buddhist monk wrongly sentenced to 20 years in prison died there on the thirteenth year of that unjust prison sentence. While jailed he managed to explain the reason behind the injustice he was suffering:
"Since I am a Tibetan, I have always been sincere and devoted to the interests and well-being of Tibetan people. That is the real reason why the Chinese do not like me and framed me. That is why they are going to take my precious life even though I am innocent."
Tenzin's cousin Geshe Nyima in a statement following news of his death placed his passing in context and called for the monk's body to be released to his family: 
"Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was an innocent monk who suffered over 13 years of unjust imprisonment, torture and abuse in a Chinese prison for simply advocating for the rights and well-being of his people and for expressing his devotion to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. ... "The Chinese government must immediately release his body so that our family and community may perform the last Buddhist religious rites".
Students for a Free Tibet is calling on  people of good will request the following of their respective government:
1. Demand a public inquiry into the circumstances of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's death. He was a political prisoner at the top of the priority listing for a number of countries and his passing must be officially acknowledged and the causes investigated.

2. Appeal to your Chinese counterparts that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's body is returned to his family so that they can carry out final Tibetan Buddhist religious rites.
 

3. Express strong condemnation at the passing of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche; and convey to China its concern that he was sentenced in secrecy for a crime he did not commit, and China's failure to respond to the application for medical parole.
Take action here and petition your government to demand that the Chinese dictatorship do the right thing then share this link with others. The international community must speak out or risk being morally complicit by its silence.

The Free Cuba Foundation adds its voice to the demand that Tenzin Delek Rinpoche's remains be returned to his family and that a public inquiry be made into the circumstances surrounding the Tibetan Lama's untimely death.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Scenes and Reflections from the July 13 Vigil for July's Cuban Martyr's at FIU


On July 13, 2015 at Florida International University at the main fountain students, Free Cuba Foundation members and relatives of some of the 37 victims of the July 13, 1994 tugboat massacre gathered in a silent vigil for 13 minutes and afterwards gave interviews to local media.  Jorge Garcia, who lost 14 family members on that day including his son and grandson was present. He reiterated his call for justice while rejecting hatred

Students and activists gathered together after the vigil

Also joining in the observance was Ramon Saul Sanchez, of the Democracy Movement. 20 years ago on July 13, 1995 he led a thirteen boat flotilla that entered Cuban waters to journey to the spot where the "13 de marzo" tugboat was attacked and sunk in order to hold religious services for the departed. However, Cuban gunboats partially crushed the hull of the lead boat forcing the flotilla to turn around.

Jorge Garcia, who lost 14 relatives on July 13, 1994, spoke to media
 The event was organized by the Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) and announced over this blog and through other social media. Three past presidents of FCF were present at the vigil today, Augusto Monge, John Suarez and Pedro Ross. Each of them during their tenure organized silent vigils on July 13 in memory of the victims of the Castro regime's repression. Rey Anthony, age 20, initiated the vigil today at midday and thirteen minutes later thanked all who attended for their presence ending the vigil.

Silent vigil at FIU on July 13, 2015

Jorge Garcia thanked FIU students for holding the vigil and continuing the demand for justice in a nonviolent and civic manner.

Jorge Garcia and Rey Anthony at the silent vigil at FIU
The event today marked a change for the Free Cuba Foundation after twenty one years of silent vigils for the July 13, 1994 "13 de marzo" tugboat massacre. Sadly, today the vigil was also dedicated to the memory of  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante both murdered by state security agents on July 22, 2012. Oswaldo Payá had spoken out denouncing the tugboat massacre over
the years while still in Cuba, and paid the ultimate price for speaking truth to power.  We will not forget and we will continue to demand justice and hold actions to raise awareness on the crimes of the Castro regime.

Monday, July 6, 2015

13 minute silent vigil for July's Cuban martyrs on July 13 at noon

"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
Silent Vigil on July 13 for Oswaldo, Harold and 37 tugboat victims
July 13, 1994 at three in the morning three extended Cuban families set out for a better life aboard the "13 de Marzo" tugboat from Havana, Cuba and were massacred in a heinous crime committed by agents of the Cuban government. The most extensive international report on the the events that took place was prepared by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Fifteen years later human rights champion Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas reflected on what had happened:
Behind the Christ of Havana, about seven miles from the coast, "volunteers" of the Communist regime committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba. In the morning, a group of seventy people in all, fled on a tugboat, led by the ship's own crew; none was kidnapped, or there against their will. They came out of the mouth of the Bay of Havana. They were pursued by other similar ships. When the runaway ship and its occupants stopped to surrender, the ships that had been chasing them started ramming to sink it. Meanwhile, on the deck, women with children in their arms begging for mercy, but the answer of their captors was to project high pressure water cannons against them. Some saw their children fall overboard under the murderous jets of water amid shrieks of horror. They behaved brutally until their perverse mission was fulfilled: Sink the fleeing ship and annihilate many of its occupants.
Three years ago on July 22, 2012 on a stretch of road in Eastern Cuba, State Security agents rammed the car Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were traveling in. Both bodies appeared later that same day. The man who denounced the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre in 2009 would himself become a martyr of the same dictatorship along with Harold, a youth leader from the Christian Liberation Movement.

Silent vigil at FIU on July 13, 2014
On July 13 at 12 noon at Florida International University the Free Cuba Foundation will hold a 13 minute silent vigil in memory of July's Cuban martyrs.

What:   13 Minute Silent Vigil
When:  Monday, 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 Dead

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

Sunday, June 28, 2015

On July 13th how will we remember the victims of the Castro regime's repression?

"In Cuba there are missing and it is known who has disappeared them, the latter are heroes for the government."..."There are more than 20 murdered children waiting to be claimed and mothers and grandmothers who were not allowed to look for them when they were killed off the coast of Havana " - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, El Nuevo Herald, March 18, 2005*



Ever since the July 13, 1994 massacre the Free Cuba Foundation has organized actions to remember what took place on that day. This year will also mark on July 22nd three years since the killings of two nonviolent human rights defenders, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas from his home in Havana, Cuba spoke clearly and courageously about the events that took place on July 13, 1994 six miles off the Cuban coastline. It was that kind of speaking truth to power in Cuba, and the courage to nonviolently organize others in support of a democratic transition that led to his being a hated target of the regime. Oswaldo knew what the stakes were: "They have told me that they will kill me before this regime ends, but I will not flee." On July 22, 2012 the Castro dictatorship carried out its promise killing him and Harold.

July 13 also marks 20 years since a 13 boat flotilla entered Cuban waters in an attempt to hold religious services 6 miles off the Cuban coast where the remains of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat victims still reside only to see its lead boat Democracia's hull crushed and people hurt by Cuban regime gunboats.

Free Cuba Foundation members are discussing various ideas to remember these injustices in a creative matter. What would you suggest? How do you plan to remember the 37 men, women and children massacred by Cuban government agents on July 13, 1994? How do you plan to remember Oswaldo and Harold and what happened on July 22, 2012?


 ***

*Original quote: "En Cuba sí hay desaparecidos y se sabe quiénes los desaparecieron, estos últimos son héroes para el gobierno" ... "Hay más de 20 niños asesinados que esperan ser reivindicados y madres y abuelas a las que no se les permitió buscarlos cuando los asesinaron en las costas de La Habana." - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, MENSAJE DE PAYÁ DESTACA QUE EN LA ISLA HAY DESAPARECIDOS  El Nuevo Herald, March 18, 2005 - PAGE: 23A SECTION: Panorama

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Freedom Caravan Supports Cuba's Democratic Resistance, Denounces New U.S.- Cuba Policy

The Drive for Freedom

This morning at ten in the morning hundreds of Cuban exiles and friends of freedom gathered at the Cuban Memorial in Tamiami Park next to Florida International University in their cars and a little after 10:30am began the drive through the streets of Miami in a Freedom Caravan.



Today's Freedom Caravan was initiated by the Cuban Resistance Assembly and sought to demonstrate the community's support for Cuba's democratic resistance and its opposition to President Obama's new Cuba policy that has coincided with rising repression and violence against activists on the island.

 More than 160 cars took part in today's caravan sending a strong message to passersby as they traveled along Coral Way to 67th Avenue turning right heading to Bird Road and again turning right on 112th Avenue and returning to Tamiami Park at 12 noon.

At the end of the event the Freedom Caravan returned to the Cuban Memorial and gave thanks and laid a wreath at the monument for the fallen.