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Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Fact Sheet on July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre

Reconciliation necessitates both truth and justice.

On July 13, 1994, a group of 72 Cubans, including children and women, tried to escape from the Island of Cuba aboard an old tugboat. State Security Forces, and four Cuban government boats of the Havana regime intercepted the boat 7 miles off the coast of Cuba, with water jets from pressure hoses pulled people off the deck, tore the children from the arms of their mothers and sank the tugboat. 37 people were murdered, 11 of them children.  

Fact 1:  In the early morning hours of July 13, 1994, four boats belonging to the Cuban State and equipped with water hoses attacked an old tugboat that was fleeing Cuba with 72 people on board.  The incident occurred seven miles off the Cuban coast, opposite the port of Havana.  The complaint also indicates that the Cuban State boats attacked the runaway tug with their prows with the intention of sinking it, while at the same time spraying everyone on the deck of the boat, including women and children, with pressurized water.  The pleas of the women and children to stop the attack were in vain, and the old boat--named "13 de Marzo"--sank, with a toll of 41 deaths, including ten minors.  Thirty-one people survived the events of July 13, 1994.

Source:  IACHR REPORT Nº 47/96 CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA     October 16, 1996  http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/96eng/Cuba11436.htm

Fact 2: According to eyewitnesses who survived the disaster, no sooner had the tug "13 de Marzo" set off from the Cuban port than two boats from the same state enterprise began pursuing it.  About 45 minutes into the trip, when the tug was seven miles away from the Cuban coast--in a place known as "La Poceta"--two other boats belonging to said enterprise appeared, equipped with tanks and water hoses, proceeded to attack the old tug.  "Polargo 2," one of the boats belonging to the Cuban state enterprise, blocked the old tug "13 de Marzo" in the front, while the other, "Polargo 5," attacked from behind, splitting the stern.  The two other government boats positioned themselves on either side and sprayed everyone on deck with pressurized water, using their hoses.

Source:  IACHR REPORT Nº 47/96 CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA     October 16, 1996  http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/96eng/Cuba11436.htm

Fact 3: The pleas of the women and children on the deck of the tug "13 de Marzo" did nothing to stop the attack.  The boat sank, with a toll of 41 dead.  Many people perished because the jets of water directed at everyone on deck forced them to seek refuge in the engine room.  The survivors also affirmed that the crews of the four Cuban government boats were dressed in civilian clothes and that they did not help them when they were sinking.

Source:  IACHR REPORT Nº 47/96 CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA     October 16, 1996  http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/96eng/Cuba11436.htm

Fact 4: In  the  days  immediately  following  the  tragedy,  the  authorities  attempted  to  prevent  any protest or public demonstration of grief.    A mass for the victims had to be cancelled and people  wearing  black  armbands  as  a  sign  of  mourning  were  also  reportedly  detained briefly.    Relatives  of  the  victims were  also  reportedly  prevented  from  throwing  flowers into the sea on the grounds that that is only usually done for “martyrs of the Revolution”. On  23  July  1994 Aida  Rosa  Jiménezof  the Movimiento  de  Madres  Cubanas  Por  la Solidaridad,  Movement  of  Cuban  Mothers  for  Solidarity,  which  had  called  on  Cuba women to wear black or purple ribbons for three days as a sign of mourning, was arrested at her home and taken to State Security headquarters at Villa Marista. She was reportedly told by officials that it was because of her efforts to encourage people to attend a mass in commemoration of the victims of the tugboat sinking.

Source: Amnesty International "Human Rights Defenders and Activists  Cuba: The sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994" 30 June 1997, Index number: AMR 25/013/1997  https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr25/013/1997/en/ 

Fact 5: In  1996,  in  his  report  to  the  52nd  Session  of  the  UN  Commission  on  Human Rights7, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions stated that he had transmitted allegations concerning the case to the Cuban Government in June 1995  and  expressed  deep  concern  that  he  had  not  received  a reply.  He  urged  that  the allegations  be properly investigated, the perpetrators brought to justice and the victims’ families compensated.    The UN Special Rapporteur on Cuba, in his interim report to the UN General Assembly dated 7 October 1996, also expressed serious concern “about the fact that an event of this magnitude, in which 37 people died, has not been investigated”. 

Source: Amnesty International "Human Rights Defenders and Activists  Cuba: The sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994" 30 June 1997, Index number: AMR 25/013/1997  https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr25/013/1997/en/  

Fact 6:  Despite consistent testimonies that four Transportation Ministry boats fired water cannons onto the decks of the tugboat and later rammed and sank it, President Castro denied a government role in the sinking.131 Although President Castro asserted that Cuba had fully investigated the incident, the commission noted that Cuba never recovered the bodies lost in the tugboat, nor the boat itself, and concluded that "there was no judicial investigation and the political organs directed by the Cuban Chief of State rushed to absolve of all responsibility the officials who went to meet the 13 de Marzo tugboat."132

Source: Human Rights Watch,Cuba's Repressive Machinery https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/cuba/Cuba996-11.htm  (1999)

Fact 7:  The victims who died in the incident of July 13, 1994 are:  Leonardo Notario Góngora (27), Marta Tacoronte Vega (36), Caridad Leyva Tacoronte (36), Yausel Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte (11), Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte (17), Odalys Muñoz García (21), Pilar Almanza Romero (30), Yaser Perodín Almanza (11), Manuel Sánchez Callol (58), Juliana Enriquez Carrasana (23), Helen Martínez Enríquez (6 months), Reynaldo Marrero (45), Joel García Suárez (24), Juan Mario Gutiérrez García (10), Ernesto Alfonso Joureiro (25), Amado Gonzáles Raices (50), Lázaro Borges Priel (34), Liset Alvarez Guerra (24), Yisel Borges Alvarez (4), Guillermo Cruz Martínez (46), Fidelio Ramel Prieto-Hernández (51), Rosa María Alcalde Preig (47), Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco (22), José Carlos Nicole Anaya (3), María Carrasco Anaya (44), Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco (35), Angel René Abreu Ruiz (3), Jorge Arquímides Lebrijio Flores (28), Eduardo Suárez Esquivel (39), Elicer Suárez Plascencia, Omar Rodríguez Suárez (33), Miralis Fernández Rodríguez (28), Cindy Rodríguez Fernández (2), José Gregorio Balmaceda Castillo (24), Rigoberto Feut Gonzáles (31), Midalis Sanabria Cabrera (19).

Source:  IACHR REPORT Nº 47/96 CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA     October 16, 1996  http://www.cidh.org/annualrep/96eng/Cuba11436.htm

Fact 8:  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was murdered on July 22, 2012 by state security agents, addressed the significance of this crime. "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." ... "Let the silenced bells toll. But let them toll for all the victims of terror that in reality is only one sole victim: the Cuban people that without distinctions, suffers the loss of each one of their children." 

Source: Human Rights Watch,Cuba's Repressive Machinery https://www.hrw.org/reports/1999/cuba/Cuba996-11.htm  (1999)

Fact 9:  One year after the massacre on July 13, 1995, Cuban exiles gathered together and set out in a flotilla that peacefully invaded Cuban national territory to travel to the spot where the "13 de Marzo" tugboat sank and where the human remains of the 37 victims still reside never returned to their families to this day to hold religious services for them. Ramón Saúl Sánchez organized and led the flotilla aboard the boat christened "Democracia". Upon entering Cuban waters the Castro regime sent their patrol boats, helicopters, and MiGs to surround and intimidate the flotilla, but it continued until the lead boat's hull was crushed by two patrol boats, and people onboard were hurt. 


Fact 10: Responding to the attack on the flotilla on July 13, 1995, Brothers to the Rescue planes overflew Havana dropping leaflets that read "Comrades No. Brothers" in Spanish. It was on that day that the Democracy Movement came into existence. It was also on that day that the Castro regime began planning its reprisal against Brothers to the Rescue, enlisting members of the WASP spy network to provide intelligence that led to the deaths of four innocents on February 24, 1996 in an act of state terrorism.

Source: http://www.hermanos.org/Doss-Tab%20B.htm

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Once again we say not in our name: Response to Biden Administration's new policy on Cuba.

The State Department announced on May 16, 2022 a new Cuba policy they claim are "new measures to support the Cuban people." The opening and closing statements pay lip service to human rights, and mention political prisoners, but the meat of the policy is a rehash of the Obama policy.

This is not a surprise. When high ranking Biden Administration officials went to Caracas in early March 2022, it was understood that when they went to Cubazuela, they would meet with both Maduro and his Cuban handlers. At the time this trip do criticism in the press, because analysts recognized that it legitimized Maduro and sidelined Guaido.

This followed up by the "migration talks" a little over a month later between a U.S. interagency delegation led by Emily Mendrala, the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, and the Cuban dictatorship’s delegation led by Vice Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio. This did not inspire much confidence in the Cuban diaspora. 

President Biden, early on in his 2020 campaign, indicated that he would return to the Obama Cuba policy, and when the announcement came, the advocates for the old policy heralded its return. Early news was that for the first time since 1960 - the United States would permit financing and investing in a "Cuban private enterprise."

Will U.S. taxpayers be left on the hook if the investment fails? This has happened to their European counterparts.

The Chamber of Commerce maybe happy with this turn of events, but how does that help Cuban political prisoners or end the internal blockade erected by the Castro brothers that keeps Cubans in misery?

Hanging over all of this is the new penal code in Cuba that the Castro dictatorship approved that further clamps down on independent journalists and human rights defenders with "penalties of 10 to 30 years," and "in extreme cases, even death" for giving "information to international organizations, associations, or even people who have not been authorized by the government." 

This is why once again we say not in our name.

Our recommendation to Cuban friends of freedom is to join the Cuban Freedom March on May 21, 2021 in New York City. A new generation of young activists are speaking truth to power, and deserve all our support.



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Project Varela: 20 years later as important as ever

In the last few years, thousands of its citizens have participated in what’s known as the Varela Project, overcoming a culture of fear and calling for a national referendum on civil rights, the peaceful evolution of freedom and reconciliation. - Oswaldo Payá, July 14, 2003 

Oswaldo Payá, Regis Iglesias, and Antonio Diaz, walk to turn in Project Varela petitions

Twenty years ago today on May 10, 2002, carrying 11,020 signed petitions in support of the Varela Project, the Christian Liberation Movement's Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and Regis Iglesias Ramirez turned them in to the Cuban National Assembly. 

The Varela Project, named after the Cuban Catholic Priest Felix Varela, sought to reform the Cuban legal system to bring it in line with international human rights standards. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in a July 14, 2003 essay published in the Los Angeles Times.

"The project’s road map toward these goals follows the country’s legal code. Article 88g of the Cuban constitution allows citizens, supported by petitions signed by at least 10,000 voters, to propose legislation. And, although it’s fraught with contradictions, the constitution also includes articles protecting the rights the Varela Project promotes."

The Christian Liberation Movement followed the letter of Cuban law in organizing the campaign. They exceeded the number of signatures needed, and specifically asked for the following in the petition.

  • Guarantee the right to free expression and free association that guarantee pluralism, opening Cuban society to political debate and facilitating a more participatory democracy. 
  • Amnesty for all those imprisoned for political reasons.  
  • Right of Cubans to form companies, both individually owned and in cooperatives. 
  • Proposal for a new electoral law that truly guarantees the right to elect and be elected to all Cubans and the holding of free elections

The Christian Liberation Movement was founded by Catholic lay people in Havana in September 1988, and is part of a non-violent dissident movement that traces its origins and influences to the Cuban Committee for Human Rights that was founded in 1976.

There was a Cuban Spring that started in January 1998 with the Pope John Paul II's visit to Cuba that saw the return of Christmas, a holiday that had been banned since 1969,  and ended with a nationwide crackdown on Cuba's civic nonviolent movement on March 18, 2003.

Nearly four months later Oswaldo Payá addressed the end of the Cuban Spring in the following OpEd in the Los Angeles Times. Nine years later on July 22, 2012 he was murdered by State Security, together with Harold Cepero Escalante, youth leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.

Today the Christian Liberation Movement issued the following statement.

"Exactly 20 years ago, with hundreds of political prisoners in jail and a mostly terrified people, 11,020 Cubans peacefully demanded the freedom of political prisoners and free elections, so that Cubans could freely choose their political and economic model. 

The response of the tyranny was repression, exile and even murder. 

Two decades later, political prisoners multiply and terror expands on the island through repression, while the solidarity of many bows to petty interests, providing impunity to the regime, today more tyrannical and more despotic than ever. 

On the 20th anniversary of that civic gesture of the people of Cuba, honoring the memory of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero and all those who have fallen in this struggle, thinking of the thousands of political prisoners who are today in communist dungeons, living with the Cuban people the lack of freedom and rights, we proclaim our will to continue working indefinitely together with the people, until freedom and democracy arrive in Cuba, which by right belongs to all Cubans. 

ALL CUBANS! 

ALL BROTHERS! 

AND NOW FREEDOM."


Los Angeles Times, July 14, 2003

Cloud of Terror Hangs Over Cubans Seeking Rights

July 14, 2003 12 AM PT

Cuba finds itself in a grave crisis.

In the last few years, thousands of its citizens have participated in what’s known as the Varela Project, overcoming a culture of fear and calling for a national referendum on civil rights, the peaceful evolution of freedom and reconciliation. But now a cloud of terror hangs over that quest for change.

Since March 18, Cuban state security has detained dozens of human rights activists, independent journalists and opposition leaders. Nearly 80 people have been locked away after summary trials, accused of collusion with the U.S. government. Their families have been terrorized and their homes ransacked -- without turning up the evidence of weapons or violent plots that the government claimed it would find.

The crackdown is an act against civil society, against fundamental rights and against the Varela Project. Among those detained are almost the entire executive leadership of the Christian Liberation Movement, which gave birth to the project. More than half of the detainees are project coordinators.

Through the project, named for crusading priest Father Felix Varela, 11,020 citizens petitioned the National Assembly in May 2002 requesting a referendum to guarantee Cuban civil liberties: freedom of expression and association, the right to own a private business (foreigners can own businesses in Cuba but nationals cannot), the release of nonviolent political prisoners and the right to directly elect representatives in free elections (the current system allows only for the endorsement of candidates selected by the government’s committees).

The project’s road map toward these goals follows the country’s legal code. Article 88g of the Cuban constitution allows citizens, supported by petitions signed by at least 10,000 voters, to propose legislation. And, although it’s fraught with contradictions, the constitution also includes articles protecting the rights the Varela Project promotes.

Since the project’s earliest days, the Cuban government has responded by unleashing a campaign of intimidation, confiscating signed petitions and encouraging violence and vandalism against the families and property of signature collectors. Agents have visited the homes of thousands of Varela petition signers. Some have been subpoenaed to appear at state security offices, some have lost their jobs or been expelled from universities, some have been blacklisted. Campaigns attacking the project and its leaders unfolded in Cuba. Also, a vocal and powerful minority within the Miami exile community took to the airwaves unleashing verbal attacks against the project and its leaders. They shared many of the same ideas, voiced with strikingly similar pejorative words and phrases.

And the response to the 11,000 signatures? Through the Communist Party, citizens were ordered to the streets to participate in massive marches against the project’s goals, though the project was never named. The government also began its own petition initiative using well-oiled methods of deception and intimidation; it claims to have gathered 8 million signatures for a constitutional amendment that makes the present one-party system “irrevocable.”

Still, the amendment didn’t nullify Article 88g, and the Varela Project survives.

In 2002, shortly before the signatures went to the National Assembly, former President Jimmy Carter visited Cuba. He praised the project in a nationally televised speech, introducing it to millions who had never before heard of it. More names were added to the project’s lists. Parallel efforts for change on the part of journalists, human rights activists, priests, nuns and others gained momentum. Never before had so many citizens organized from within Cuba to claim their rights.

And then came the latest crackdown.

Yet the government’s actions only promote confrontation as a means of resolution. We are determined to continue the Varela Project until the changes Cubans need are realized. Cuban citizens must be permitted to exercise their constitutional rights.

Support from nations, churches and human rights organizations around the world is vital to our success. This is the time to put pressure on the Cuban government. This is the time to insist on the release of all political prisoners and detainees. This is the time for solidarity with the Cuban people and their quest for change.

Oswaldo Paya is the national coordinator of the Citizens Committee for the promotion of the Varela Project in Cuba and an activist in the Christian Liberation Movement. In December, he was awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought by the European Parliament.

https://www.latimes.com/archives/la-xpm-2003-jul-14-oe-paya14-story.html

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Student murdered by Castro regime soldier: Our Continuing Call for Justice for Joachim

The Free Cuba Foundation seeks a nonviolent transition to democracy in Cuba. One element towards achieving that end is holding the Cuban government accountable for its actions. The organizations has engaged in campaigns for the victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down and the extrajudicial execution of Joachim Løvschall on March 29, 1997. Unfortunately, since then we have also added new crimes to denounce such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death on February 23, 2010 and the murders of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012. 



Today, marks 25 years since Joachim Løvschall was murdered by agents of the Castro regime and justice has still not been done in this matter.

We remember him and his family today on this sad anniversary. Below is the article that first brought his case to our attention:

DANGEROUS VACATION

by Kim Hundevadt
Danish newspaper: Jyllands-Posten
September 28, 1997 (Translation)

 
Cuba has been recognized as a travel destination, since four of the largest charter companies have gone together by direct flight, to Havana. But several dramatic episodes have created doubt about tourist safety in Cuba. First came the 26 year old Dane who was shot and killed by Cuban soldiers in the street. And the latest, a series of bombing attempts aimed directly at the heart of the popular tourist destination. The travel industry continues to believe however, that Cuba has a future as a vacation paradise.

CUBA

On March 28, 1997 Joachim Løvschall ate a dinner with white wine in the little restaurant called Aladin, on 21st street in Havana. From there he went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater.

After the performance he went into the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met Caroline and Jouni, two young Swedes, who had become a part of his new circle of friends in Havana. They drank a couple of beers each, but hurried up because Joachim did not like the music.

At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. The Swedes never saw Joachim again.

Four days later, on April 1, they went to the police in order to inform them about the 26 year old missing Danish person. Joachim had not returned back to the private room he had rented from the Garcia Llanes family. Both his Cuban landlord and his two Swedish friends were worried.
On April 4, in the evening, they were called to the legal medical institute in Havana, where they were able to identify the corpse of Joachim Løvschall.

A day and a half later, the Danish authorities and the next of kin, at home in Denmark, were notified.

SHOT AND KILLED

In the meantime, over the last 6 months, Joachim Løvschall's parents, assisted by their own lawyer and by the Danish Foreign Ministry, have attempted to get an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the killing of the young market economist, who was traveling to Cuba in order to learn Spanish at the university and to experience the country as a tourist.

According to the Cuban inquiry, around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in the nighttime.

At 2:45 he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.

Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down.

The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.

The Cuban authorities estimate that Joachim Løvschall died of blood loss at 3:06.

INCOMPREHENSIBLE ACT

As not a word was mentioned for more than 8 days, before the Danish Foreign Ministry received word about the killing, the Cubans gave the excuse that Joachim Løvschall did not have any papers on him.

Denmark's ambassador in Mexico, Martin Kofod, traveled immediately to Havana to get clarification of the circumstances.

After 4 days of meetings and investigations, Martin Kofod concluded in a letter that neither barricades nor signs clearly state that the sidewalk in question is a military area. He was astonished as well over the severe methods used by the soldiers and said: "I will reiterate, that to me it is completely incomprehensible that it was not possible to employ methods other than `shoot to kill', in a situation like this," Martin Kofod wrote in his letter.

REASON TO KILL

The Løvschall family's lawyer, Bent Nielsen, said in a Danish newspaper, that as he understands it, one can call this a clear case of execution of Joachim Løvschall.

Bent Nielsen has in his possession a video from the autopsy, and he has gotten a Danish forensic medicine specialist, Dr. Markil Gregersen, to examine it: "It appears obvious and is clearly evident that the soldiers did not attempt to seize and restrain Joachim Løvschall. If so, there would have been signs of a struggle. Nor did they attempt to shoot at his legs. In this case, two bullets were fired directly at the trunk and the head, from a distance of less than two meters (6 feet). Behind the shooting there must lie a reason to kill," said Bent Nielsen.

According to Joachim's two Swedish friends, he had about 80-100 dollars in his wallet, the night he was shot. This money disappeared. Because of this, common robbery is one of several theories.
"On the other hand, the money could have been stolen several days after the killing. I am perhaps more inclined to the opinion that this is a case of poorly trained soldiers who reacted in panic. Also, they most certainly used shooting regulations that are not tolerated in the daytime, out in the open in the street. Therefore, perhaps their superiors should be blamed. Under all circumstances, we must demand that the Cubans carry out a thorough investigation, find out what wrongs were committed, and punish those who are guilty," said Bent Nielsen.

Denmark has officially protested. This protest took place formally in the form of a letter which was sent to the Cuban government, at the beginning of August. "In it we ask the Cubans a series of critical questions. More specifically, we have criticized the lack of barricades at the military area. We have also written, that we find it absolutely incomprehensible that it was necessary to shoot directly at the trunk of the body, to restrain Joachim Løvschall," said Department Director, Nina Jaquet, of the Danish Foreign Ministry.

Simultaneously with the protest to Cuba, the Foreign Ministry also sent a travel directive to the Danish travel industry, regarding travel to Cuba. The directive urges Danish tourists to keep at a safe distance from all military areas, and it underlines that these are not always effectively marked off. "People who do not immediately obey and react correctly to the orders from Cuban military guards ... risk being shot without further warning," the travel directive says.

Nina Jaquet said that in addition to this, the Foreign Ministry presented Joachim Løvschall's case at the EU Community meeting of consulate matters. "We urged the other EU nations to add information to their travel instructions to Cuba. Germany has already done so, and other countries considered this immediately," said Nina Jaquet.

OVER 5,000 DANES

For the Danish travel industry, this case comes at the worst possible moment. Larsen Travel was one of the first agencies to have success in sending charter flights to Cuba. In June, the four largest travel agencies decided to jointly add Cuba as a new destination. Tjaereborg, Spies, Ving and Star Tours together use a DC 10 from Premiair, which flies directly from Copenhagen to Havana every other Friday. This means that Cuba, which for many years was reserved for a small crowd of young and adventurous backpacking tourists, has been recognized as a charter, travel destination resort.

"Interest in Cuba has become very big and trips are sold out a long time in advance," said Administrative Director, H. P. Anderson, of Tjaereborg agency. Other agencies give similar reports. If Cuba can maintain its good reputation, more than 5,000 Danish charter guests will visit the country within the next year.

THE FAMILY IS OUTRAGED

Joachim Løvschall's family and friends accuse the charter industry of minimizing the new travel directive - out of fear that it will miss out on sales of trips to Cuba. Jesper Sorensen, a former schoolmate and best friend, said that he inquired within a number of travel agencies about the conditions in Cuba. They all replied that there are no problems with safety, and that the Dane who was killed was just a `drunken idiot' who had gone to a military base, in the middle of the night.

Joachim's father, Export Executive Christian Løvschall, is outraged at the manner in which the charter agencies continue to market Cuba as an ideal vacation paradise. "It is irresponsible and shows that it is only what profits, that matters," believes Christian Løvschall. He has received information from various sources, that also a Brazilian, a Bulgarian, a Mexican and the latest, a Colombian tourist, have been killed by Cuban soldiers under similar circumstances.

ORIENTATION ON THE SPOT

The travel agencies said that their clients get a thorough orientation when they arrive at their accommodations in Cuba. However, the travel directive is not mentioned when the clients buy their tickets. "Ideally, perhaps we ought to mention it, but in that case we could do nothing but refrain from selling tickets. And that after all is not our business," said Sales Director Stig Elling, from Star Tour. He added that the killing of Joachim Løvschall is a tragic, but isolated incident that could happen anywhere in the world, including Cuba.

"Star Tours clients are very pleased with the new destination to Cuba," said Stig Elling. Both Star Tour and the other charter agencies have increased attention about travel to Cuba nevertheless, after a series of bomb explosions in the heart of Cuban tourist destinations.

On September 4, three and possibly as many as nine hotels and restaurants in Havana were hit by explosions which took the life of a 32 year old Italian tourist. No one has claimed responsibility, but presumably anti-Castro groups based in USA are behind the bombings. The aim is to destroy Cuba's economy by paralyzing its tourism, which has had strong growth over the last couple of years and now brings in income of more than one billion dollars a year.

"Of course, the bombs mean that we follow the situation in Cuba very closely. But we do not think, at the present time, that there are grounds for a drastic reaction that would close the travel destination," said Larsen Rejsers Administrative Director, Jens Veino. "There are explosions all over the world, most recently in Stockholm and Cairo. If we said we will not travel where bombs occur, then gradually we would only have places in Denmark left as destinations. Therefore, we try to avoid reacting before it is necessary," he added.

CAREFREE VACATION

The probability that people would experience anything dramatic on a vacation to Cuba is very small, maintains Arthur Monsted, whose company Monsted Security Management advises companies and organizations about safety, in connection with travel to foreign countries. "On the other hand, taking into consideration the situation as it is for the time being, one cannot totally ignore the possible risks. There is no doubt about the fact that the bombings in Cuba are directed at high profile tourist destinations," he believes. "For me personally, I would certainly go some other place. When I am on vacation, I generally like to relax and be quite carefree, totally without worries - I would almost say that I like to be careless. A person fortunately can do this in many places. But I do not believe a person can do this in Cuba," said Arthur Monsted.

~ A FINAL NOTE FROM THE FAMILY OF JOACHIM OGNER LØVSCHALL ~

Terrorism occurs all over the world and is carried out by terrorists. In Cuba, inhumane and inexcusable acts of lawlessness and injustice are carried out, not by terrorists, but by the Cuban government.
Jyllands-Posten - (http://www.jp.dk/

Friday, March 18, 2022

Remembering the 1998 - 2003 Cuban Spring

An important period in Cuban history.
 
11,020 Varela Project signatures turned in on May 20, 2002

Past is prologue, and understanding this past provides insights into the future.
 
Nineteen years ago on March 18, 2003 a crackdown began in Cuba on the eve of the United States going to war in Iraq. Scores of nonviolent Cuban dissidents were rounded up and subjected to political show trials. 75 were condemned to lengthy prison terms of up to 28 years in prison. 
 
This was the end of a Cuban Spring that began in 1998. There were less than 50 acts of civil disobedience in Cuba reported in 1997.  In 2003 this had increased to over 1,300 acts of civil disobedience.
 
Over a five year period the dissident movement grew and increased in its activism despite continuing regime repression.
 
The high point of this Cuban Spring was reached on May 10, 2002 when Oswaldo Paya, Antonio Diaz Sanchez, and Regis Iglesias walked with the bulky card board boxes labeled Project Varela to the Cuban National Assembly. The card boxes held 11,020 signed petitions in support of the Varela Project.
 
The Varela Project, named after the Cuban Catholic Priest Felix Varela, sought to reform the Cuban legal system to bring it in line with international human rights standards. The petition organizers had followed the letter of the law in creating the campaign.
 
Yet the dictatorship's response to a nonviolent citizen's initiative was to first coerce Cubans into signing another petition declaring the Constitution unchangeable and quickly passed it through the rubber stamp legislature without debating the Varela Project, which according to the Cuban law drafted by the dictatorship meant that it should have been debated by the National Assembly.
 
Nun places sun flowers to images of 75 Cubans jailed in 2003
 
This culminated in the crackdown outlined in the first paragraph.  Three documentaries capture this span of time, and are required viewing for Cuba watchers.
 
Voices from the Isle of Freedom (2001), a documentary of People in Need in cooperation with Czech Television. It was directed and filmed by Petr Jančárek. It covers events in Cuba during 2000 and 2001.
 
Dissident: Oswaldo Payá and the Varela Project (2002), a documentary of the National Democratic Institute "created a documentary about the Varela Project which premiered in several film festivals, including the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City in May 2003.
 
The Cuban Spring (2003), a documentary by Carlos González, today of the Casla Institute and captures events in Cuba on the eve of, during, and after the March 18, 2003 crackdown in Cuba.  

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

From the Archives: Cuban dissidents gather in Rome before Pope John Paul II's historic trip to Cuba

23 years ago, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Ricardo Bofill, Father Miguel Angel Lauredo, Mario Chanes de Armas, Ernesto Diaz Rodriguez, Dariel Alarcon Ramirez (Benigno), Jorge Masseti, and John Suarez gathered in Rome on January 17, 1998 to discuss Cuba’s dissident movement in advance of Pope John Paul II’s historic visit to Cuba. Below is a photo from the event, and link to the Associated Press story on the meeting.


Below is the poster that announced the event, and the list of speakers and moderator.



 

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Remembering Laura Pollán, Cuba's Lady in White ten years after her killing

“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba that it be what God wants.” (September 24, 2011)


Ten years ago today, Cuban opposition leader and human rights defender Laura Pollán died under circumstances that Cuban dissident and medical doctor Oscar Elias Biscet described as "death by purposeful medical neglect."

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, a courageous woman spoke truth to power and protested in the streets of Cuba demanding an amnesty for Cuban political prisoners. She had been a school teacher, before her husband was jailed for his independent journalism in 2003 along with more than 75 other civil society members. Laura was greatly admired both inside and outside of the island.

Today, the current leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, paid homage to her predecessor over FaceBook while calling out and holding responsible the Castro regime for Laura's death.
 
Tenth anniversary of the physical loss of Laura Pollan Toledo. The Fidel Castro regime murdered Laura Pollan, they thought to silence her, but they did not succeed, she remains high in our esteem and is among us present at every step of the Ladies in White, following her legacy. 
 
Example of a woman, loving, brave, intelligent, audacious, teacher, warrior, for that and much more we say: LAURA POLLAN LIVES Laura is in our hearts Ladies in White we pay tribute and homage to: Laura Pollan Toledo.
  
 
Let us remember that Laura put into action over eight years in Cuba nonviolent resistance to tyranny.
"They tried to silence 75 voices, but now there are more than 75 voices shouting to the world the injustices the government has committed." (2004) "We fight for the freedom of our husbands, the union of our families. We love our men." (2005)
"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." (2010) "We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.” (September 24, 2011)
"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story." (2011)
“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba that it be what God wants.” (September 24, 2011)
"We are not going to stop. If you have imprisoned our sisters thinking that we would give up, they are mistaken. We are very united (...) all the women's movements are very close." (October 2, 2011) 
"My life has changed a lot, now I have learned to love the country much more, the prisoners, the humanity. That's how I have so much work, that I don't have much time to think about myself, what really satisfies me, in short, I owe myself to other more important tasks. Now I understand much more, before I could not understand these things, you have to live and feel them to be able to dedicate soul heart and life to this beautiful cause." (2011)