Friday, January 28, 2011

José Julián Martí Pérez in 1869 & Diosdado González Marrero today: Imprisoned for their ideals

We won't forget you. We'll do what we can.*


José Julián Martí Pérez was born on January 28, 1853. Today, Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez tweeted: a melancholy but accurate reflection on his birthday: "Today is the 158th anniversary of the birth of Jose Marti & the Cuba he dreamed of appears farther away than ever..."


Dedicated to prisoners of conscience  in Cuba and around the world:



Wall Flower written by and performed by Peter Gabriel




Cuba in 2011 under the Castro brothers may even farther away from the Cuba of the poet patriot's dreams in 1869. Consider what happened today, January 28, 2011 as reported by the Associated Press:

[Guillermo] Farinas and the other dissidents had sought to place a wreath at a monument to Cuban independence leader Jose Marti on the 158th anniversary of his birthday. "About 20 of them went out to place the wreath," Farinas' mother, Alicia Hernandez, told The Associated Press. "They had only gone two blocks when they took them away." Earlier Friday, Farinas told the AP he would ignore the warning.
"They told us they wouldn't let us assemble in groups of more than three people," Farinas said. "If they want to detain me, that's their problem."

Alejandrina Garcia on hunger strike
On the same day a courageous woman put her life on the line to saver her husband, a prisoner of conscience rotting in prison since March 18, 2003 for his ideals: 
Also Friday, the wife of imprisoned dissident Diosdado Gonzalez announced the start of a hunger strike demanding his release. Alejandrina Garcia, one of the founding members of the "Ladies in White" opposition group, said in a phone interview from her home in Matanzas that she would only drink water until her husband is out of prison. Cuba promised to free all 52 remaining opposition figures from a 2003 crackdown on dissent, following a July deal with the Roman Catholic Church. Just 11 remain behind bars, including Gonzalez.
Church officials have said they are optimistic the government will soon make good on its promise, but there has been little word on the men's fate since the passing of a November deadline by which all were supposed to be out. The last 11 dissidents have refused to accept exile in Spain, as most of the others did, the apparent reason for the delay.
 
Cuba today is the antithesis of the dream shared by José Martí and the founders of the Cuban Republic yet the courage of men like Diosdado and the other 10 refusing exile and remaining in prison along with courageous women such as Alejandrina Garcia risking all for the freedom of a loved one. They bring to mind two reflections from the martyred founder of Cuba:

"When there are many men without decorum, there are always others who themselves possess the decorum of many men. These are the ones who rebel with terrible strength against those who rob nations of their liberty, which is to rob men of their decorum. Embodied in those men are thousands of men, a whole people, human dignity."- José Martí

Alejandrina Garcia, one of the founding members of the "Ladies in White" opposition group, sits in her home in Matanzas, Cuba, Friday, Jan. 28, 2011. Garcia began a hunger strike demanding the immediate release of her husband Diosdado Gonzalez. Although Cuba promised to free all 52 remaining opposition figures from a 2003 crackdown on dissent, following a July deal with the Roman Catholic Church, 11 remain behind bars, including Gonzalez. (AP Photo/Javier Galeano)

"The struggles waged by nations are weak only when they lack support in the hearts of their women. But when women are moved and lend help, when women, who are by nature calm and controlled, give encouragement and applause, when virtuous and knowledgeable women grace the endeavor with their sweet love, then it is invincible." - José Martí
 
 
*Apologies to Peter Gabriel for being inspired and paraphrasing a lyric.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Fast & Vigil for Victims of the Brothers to the Rescue Shootdown and Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. – Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham jail, April 16, 1963

The Free Cuba Foundation is calling on all people of good will to initiate a 24-hour fast on February 23 at 3:00pm that coincides with the time that prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died one year earlier after 83 days on a hunger strike in defense of dignity and human rights in Cuba. Prison officials denied him water for several days contributing to his death.



A fast is not a hunger strike. Mohandas Gandhi observed that "A complete fast is a complete and literal denial of self. It is the truest prayer." For example last year following the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a group of Cuban prisoners of conscience organized days of fasting and Bible readings and called for all people of good will to join them in the effort. Most of the participants in that fast are now exiled in Spain although two of them, Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet and Ángel Moya Acosta remain imprisoned in Cuba. They are part of a group of eleven prisoners of conscience that have refused forced exile and remain in prison.

We are asking you to join us in fasting and praying for Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died 1 year ago on February 23, 2010 and for Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña and Armando Alejandre Jr. extrajudicially executed 15 years ago on February 24, 1996.



The fast will be completed on February 24 and will coincide with the 15 year anniversary of the of the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. The Free Cuba Foundation is calling on all people of goodwill to organize vigils and moments of silence between the times when both Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down at  3:21pm and 3:27pm.



Our aim is not arouse hatred or revenge but to remember and demand justice. We share Mohandas Gandhi's conviction that: "To forgive is not to forget. The merit lies in loving in spite of the vivid knowledge that the one that must be loved is not a friend. There is no merit in loving an enemy when you forget him for a friend."

Those responsible for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the deaths of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña and Armando Alejandre need to be held accountable. The Roman philosopher and statesmen Marcus Tullius Cicero uttered a profound truth when he observed that "[t]he hope of impunity is the greatest inducement to do wrong." To ensure that the crimes committed against the above mentioned persons are not repeated those responsible need to be identified and held accountable.

It is for that reason that the Free Cuba Foundation is circulating a petition requesting that the Cuban spies involved in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down serve out their sentences and not be pardoned. There is an effort underway to have the current U.S. Administration pardon them. Furthermore, that those who gave the orders and are still at large be placed on an Interpol watch list.

We'd also like to encourage all people of good will to write letters to the editor, opinion pieces, blog entries, organize showings of documentaries, and remind people about these injustices. 

Our call to action has three components:

1. Sign petition

2. Fast for 24 hours beginning on February 23 at 3:00pm the time Orlando Zapata Tamayo died.


3. Hold a silent vigil for Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña and Armando Alejandre Jr.on February 24 between 3:21pm and 3:28pm the times the two Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down killing the four men.