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Thursday, December 27, 2012

Friday Mass for Innocent Cuban Martyrs

Harold Cepero Escalante and Mario Manuel de la Peña
The Cuban Democratic Directorate and members of the exile community are offering a Mass officiated by Father José Luis Menéndez to pray for the souls of Harold Cepero Escalante and Mario Manuel De la Peña on Friday, December 28, 2012 at 8pm at the Corpus Christi Catholic Church located at 3220 NW 7th Avenue Miami, FL.

December 28 is the Day of the Holy Innocents and is a religious holiday named in honor of the young children slaughtered by order of King Herod around the time of Jesus’ birth. These young victims were called“Holy Innocents” because they were too young and innocent to have committed any sins.  

Tomorrow we will pray for two young men whose lives were taken before their time who dedicated themselves to serve others and make the world a better place dedicated to defending human rights and saving the lives of others. 

On Friday, December 28, 2012 Mario Manuel de la Peña, who was born in the United States in the township of Weehawken, New Jersey in 1971, should have been 41 years old.

One month and a day later on January 29, 2013 Harold Cepero Escalante, who was born in Cuba in the municipality of Chambas in the province of Ciego de Ávila in 1980, should be celebrating his 33rd birthday.

Sadly, neither young man will have the opportunity to do so. 

Mario Manuel de la Peña was one of four men shot down by Cuban MiGs on February 24, 1996 while searching for Cuban rafters in the Florida Straits in international airspace. Mario was 24 years old when he was killed.

Harold Cepero Escalante was a youth leader in the Christian Liberation Movement and died under suspicious circumstanceswith its founding leader Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas on July 22, 2012. Harold was 32 years old at the time of his untimely death. Family members are demanding an international investigation into the deaths of Harold and Oswaldo.

Although the Free Cuba Foundation is not organizing this event, it does call on members to attend and honor these two young men who gave their last full measure in the defense of human rights and dignity.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Father denounces daughter's persecution on Human Rights Day

Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia and his daughter Martha Beatriz Ferrer
How did officials of the regime in Cuba observe international human rights day on December 10, 2012 in a local school? Officials celebrated the dictator who ruled the island for the past half century as a human rights champion while at the same time targeting a young girl for refusing to participate and threatening her friends. Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia described over twitter the campaign government officials are waging against his 15 year old daughter:
Martha Beatriz Ferrer, my daughter of 15 years, was the victim yesterday of deception, harassment and ill-treatment at her College Prep school in Palmarito de Cauto. Cuban communist party leaders in the Mella municipality harassed Martha Beatriz for refusing to participate in a political action for Human Rights Day. In the political act that my daughter refused to participate in they began claiming that Fidel Castro was a champion in the defense of human rights. The actions against my daughter Martha Beatriz at school are increasing. Because of her charisma and courage she greatly concerns the political police. The political police, Cuban communist party and education leaders pressured Martha Beatriz's classmates not to involve themselves with her.

They are pressuring parents of the classmates of my daughter Martha Beatriz. Students from the College Prep school have been threatened with measures in their school record if they visit our home in Palmarito de Cauto. The campaign against Martha Beatriz intensifies so that her friends not attend her 15th birthday.
 The original Spanish is available below:
Martha Beatríz Ferrer, mi hija del 15 años, fue víctima ayer de engaño, acoso y malos tratos en Pre-Universaritario de Palmarito de Cauto. Dirigentes del PCC en el municipio Mella acosan a Martha Beatríz por negarse a participar en acto político por Día de los Derechos Humanos. En el acto político que mi hija se negó a participar comenzaron afirmando que Fidel Castro era un paladín en la defensa de los d. humanos. Las acciones contra mi hija Martha Beatríz en su escuela van en aumento. Por su carisma y valor preocupa grandemente a la policía política.  La policía política, dirigentes del PCC y Educación presionan a compañeros de aula de Martha Beatríz para que no se relacionen con ella. Presionan a padres de los compañeros de clases de mi hija Martha Beatríz.

 A los alumnos del Pre-Universaritario le han amenazado con medidas en su expediente escolar si visitan nuestro hogar en Palmarito de Cauto.  Se intensifica la campaña en contra de Martha Beatríz para que sus amigos no asistan a su 15 cumpleaños.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Take Action on International Human Rights Day

The human rights situation in Cuba is grim and getting worse. Women are being beaten up and detained for exercising their rights. The United Nations ignores the violence committed by agents of the Cuban government. A young girl was repeatedly knife attacked for defending these women. Opposition leaders have been murdered in actions organized by State Security and covered up. Meanwhile another prisoner of conscience is being denied water by prison officials in an effort to either kill him or break his spirit on day 29 of a hunger strike. An American and a Spaniard are held hostage and used to blackmail the United States and Spain. A cholera outbreak that threatens countless lives is downplayed by the dictatorship.

This is Cuba in 2012.

What are you willing to do about it?

Can you take two minutes of your time and demand justice, freedom and an end to the repression of human rights defenders in Cuba?

Then take action and do it:


Petition Demanding International and Transparent Investigation into the deaths of Paya and Cepero


Government of Cuba: Free Calixto Martínez Arias, and Stop Harassing Journalists and Dissidents

End Repression: 

Protect Human Rights Defenders in the Americas

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Norway's Sexiest Woman was Bitten by a Cuban Diplomat in 2010

Alexandra Joner voted the sexiest woman in Norway in 2012 was bitten by a Cuban diplomat in Oslo in May 2010 while nonviolently witnessing a protest in remembrance of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who had died on hunger strike in Cuba on February 23, 2010. She was across the street with a camera video taping her mom and a small group of demonstrators when she was confronted by a Cuban diplomat who hurled insults at her and bit her hand.

Alexandra is a model, actress, and singer and has songs that have been hits in Norway. Her latest video is posted below. Lets demonstrate our solidarity with this accomplished young woman by purchasing her music.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Amnesty International issues urgent action for Antonio Rodiles

Antonio Rodiles


UA: 333/12 Index: AMR 25/026/2012 Cuba Date: 15 November 2012
Cuban man targeted for government criticism
Government critic Antonio Rodiles has been charged with “resisting authority”. It is believed the charges may be used to punish and prevent his peaceful criticism of Cuban government policies.
A coordinator of a civil society initiative calling on the government to ratify international human rights treaties, Antonio Rodiles, has been charged with “resisting authority” (resistencia). He has been placed in pre-trial detention (prisión provisional), but no date has been set for his trial.
Shortly after the arrest of the independent lawyer and journalist Yaremis Flores on 7 November, Antonio Rodiles, his wife and several other government critics went to the Department of State Security headquarters, know as Section 21 (Sección 21) in the neighbourhood of Marianao in Havana, to enquire after her whereabouts. Before they could reach the building they were approached by 20 people, all plain-clothed, as two officials from the Ministry of the Interior looked on. Antonio Rodiles was reportedly knocked to the ground and pinned down by four men. Several of the other activists were also manhandled and were forced into a police vehicle and sent to various police stations around Havana. All were released by 11 November, except Antonio Rodiles.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office (fiscalía) informed Antonio Rodiles’ wife on 14 November that he was being charged with “resisting authority” but a formal charge document has yet to be issued.
Antonio Rodiles is one of the coordinators of Citizen Demand for Another Cuba (Demanda Ciudadana Por Otra Cuba), an initiative calling for Cuba to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which the country signed in 2008. Amnesty International believes the charges against him may be being used to punish and prevent his peaceful activities as a government critic and is gathering further information on his case and treatment.
Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
Calling on the Cuban authorities to release Antonio Rodiles immediately and unconditionally if they are unable to substantiate the charges against him, and to investigate reports that he was ill-treated during his arrest;
Calling on them to immediately cease the harassment of all other citizens who peacefully exercise their rights to freedom of expression and association.

Head of State and Government
Raúl Castro Ruz
Presidente de la República de Cuba
La Habana, Cuba
Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Email: (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency
Attorney General
Dr. Darío Delgado Cura
Fiscal General de la República, 
Fiscalía General de la República, Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella, 
Centro Habana,
La Habana, Cuba
Salutation: Dear Attorney General

And copies to:
Interior Minister
General Abelardo Coloma Ibarra
Ministro del Interior y Prisiones
Ministerio del Interior,
Plaza de la Revolución, La Habana, Cuba
Fax:             +1 212 779 1697       (via Cuban Mission to UN)
Salutation: Your Excellency

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country
Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.
cuban man targeted for government criticism


Journalist Yaremis Flores was held for 48 hours before being released without charge. During her detention she and was threatened with charges of “disseminating false information against international peace” (difusión de noticias falsas contra la paz internacional), which carries a prison sentence of one to four years, if she continued her work as a journalist.
Antonio Rodiles has been charged under Article 143 of the Cuban Criminal Code. This covers the offence of resistencia, which refers to resistance to public officials carrying out their duties and is often used to deal with alleged cases of resisting arrest. Article 143 is broad enough to encompass non-violent forms of resistance; it is sometimes used in ways that unlawfully restrict freedom of expression.
On 20 June, Citizen Demand for Another Cuba handed in a petition with 500 signatures to the National Assembly of People’s Power (Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular) – Cuba’s legislative body located in Havana – calling on the government to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Along with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, these covenants constitute the International Bill of Rights and are the key international human rights instruments. Since Cuba’s signing of both covenants in 2008, Amnesty International has called on the authorities to ratify them in order to bring them into force and begin their implementation.
Antonio Rodiles is also the coordinator of State of SATS (Estado de SATS), a forum which emerged in July 2010 to encourage debate on social, cultural and political issues.
Name: Antonio Rodiles
Gender m/f: m

UA: 333/12 Index: AMR 25/026/2012 Issue Date: 15 November 2012

Friday, August 3, 2012

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero: Exemplars for Cubans everywhere

"Liberation is a task for the Cuban people – now with greater hope because we are definitely on the verge, on the threshold of truth and liberation. That is our hope." - Oswaldo Paya, March 29, 2012

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas died as he lived seeking the liberation of an island nation enslaved to communist totalitarianism for over 53 years. When asked in an interview whether Cuba was a dictatorship his response demonstrated his clear thinking. He said that Cuba was not a dictatorship but that there was a dictatorship in Cuba oppressing Cubans. He did not identify the Cuban nation or its identity with repression. He recognized the existence of the dictatorship but that it was also an aberration that needed to be overcome not a permanent part of the Cuban identity.

Harold Cepero was expelled from University for advocating and gathering signatures for the Varela Project. A citizen initiative that  was supposedly  legal according to the dictatorship's constitution. He began his activism as a youth leader of the Christian Liberation Movement.

They lived their lives resisting tyranny and advocating liberation and living the lives of a free men until the day they died. Oswaldo died at age 60 seeking nonviolent democratic change for over forty years. There is controversy surrounding the circumstances of his death and that of his young compatriot Harold Cepero in an accident that  may  have been a set up by Cuban State Security to murder these Cuban patriots.

We will join Oswaldo Paya's widow and all people of good will  in demanding that an international organization investigate with transparency the circumstances surrounding this accident and the deaths of these two great Cuban exemplars.

In the mean time we will not focus on how Oswaldo and Harold died but how they lived their lives to obtain the freedom of the Cuban people. We will honor their legacy by continuing the struggle for liberation.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Silent Vigil for Justice for the Victims of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre

"Judgment for an evil thing is many times delayed some day or two, some century or two, but it is sure as life, it is sure as death!" - Thomas Carlyle 

Silent Vigil for Justice at Florida International University on July 13, 2012
July 13, 1994 around 3:00am a group of Cubans, mostly families, put out to sea from port of Havana on the tugboat "13 de Marzo". 7 miles from shore agents of the Castro regime on boats with high pressure hoses attacked the tugboat splitting the stern. 37 men, women and children were killed. 18 years later their killers haven't answered for this crime.

 Today students and activists gathered at the main fountain at Florida International University for 18 minutes of silence. One minute for each year that has passed in which the victims and their families have not had justice and their killers walk freely without having had to answer for their crimes in a court of law. This tradition has been carried out since 1995 and we will make every effort to see that it continues to be observed in the future until justice is achieved.

These are the victims of the tugboat! Victims of a cruel tyrant that claims to be a defender of the women and children of Cuba.
Below is a list of the 37 victims of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre that took place 17 years ago today on July 13, 1994. Next to their names is their age on the day their lives were taken away by agents of the Cuban government. May they rest in peace and let us continue to pursue justice for them and their loved ones.

Hellen Martínez Enríquez (5 months old)

Xicdy Rodríguez Fernández (2 years old)

Angel René Abreu Ruiz ( 3 years old)

José Carlos Nicle Anaya (3 years old)

Giselle Borges Alvarez (4 years old)

Caridad Leyva Tacoronte ( 5 years old)

Juan Mario Gutiérrez García (10 years old)

Yasser Perodín Almanza (11 years old)

Yousell Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte ( 11 years old)

Eliecer Suárez Plasencia (12 years old)

Mayulis Menéndez Tacoronte (17 years old)

Miladys Sanabria Cabrera ( 19 years old)

Joel García Suárez ( 20 years old)

Odalys Muñoz García (21 years old)

Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco ( 22 years old)

Yuliana Enríquez Carrazana ( 22 years old)

Lissett María Alvarez Guerra ( 24 years old)

Jorge Gregorio Balmaseda Castillo ( 24 years old)

Ernesto Alfonso Loureiro ( 25 years old)

María Miralis Fernández Rodríguez ( 27 years old)

Jorge Arquímedes Levrígido Flores ( 28 years old)

Leonardo Notario Góngora ( 28 years old)

Pilar Almanza Romero ( 31 years old)

Rigoberto Feu González ( 31 years old)

Omar Rodríguez Suárez ( 33 years old)

Lázaro Enrique Borges Briel ( 34 years old)

Martha Caridad Tacoronte Vega ( 35 years old)

Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco ( 35 years old)

Eduardo Suárez Esquivel ( 38 years old)

Martha M.Carrasco Sanabria ( 45 years old)

Augusto Guillermo Guerra Martínez ( 45 years old)

Rosa María Alcal de Puig ( 47 years old)

Estrella Suárez Esquivel ( 48 years old)

Reynaldo Joaquín Marrero Alamo ( 48 years old)

Amado González Raíces ( 50 years old)

Manuel Cayol ( 50 years old)

Fidencio Ramel Prieto Hernández ( 51 years old)

Useful links:

CUBA: The Sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994 / Amnesty International

REPORT Nº 47/96: CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs.CUBA October 16, 1996 / IACHR

Cuba: Cuban authorities should lift threats against peaceful protesters / Amnesty International

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Silent Vigil for Justice for the Victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre

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

Since members of the Free Cuba Foundation learned in 1994 that 37 men, women and children were massacred by agents of the Castro regime as they tried to flee to freedom in the early morning hours of July 13, 1994 aboard the "13 de Marzo" tugboat FCF members have taken part in or organized flotillas, lectures, and silent vigils for justice.

Although 18 years have passed our call for justice has not diminished.

It is important to remember and denounce such injustices in an effort to ensure that these crimes are not repeated. In the video below survivors of the massacre describe what happened.

Last year we gathered at the main fountain at Florida International University for a moment of silence at 12 noon. This year we call on all people of good will to join us in a 18 minute silent vigil at noon. One minute for each year that has passed without justice at the main fountain located next to the Graham Center at Florida International University located on 107th Avenue and SW 8 Street.


Video above and below was taken on July 13, 2010

On the 15th anniversary of the massacre the Free Cuba Foundation invited a family member who had lost 14 relatives in the massacre. His name is Jorge Garcia and his testimony was powerful and gripping.

In prior years the Free Cuba Foundation has organized a silent vigil for justice at Florida International University at 12 noon. The video below is from 2006.

What do you plan to do now in 2012 to denounce this crime? Please comment below.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Remembering and Honoring an American Hero

Relaunching the Thomas P. Ray Lecture Series

The Thomas "Pete" Ray Lecture Series

Thomas "Pete" Ray

This lecture series will address the long silent voice of Cuba's democratic opposition in American academia. Miami is the logical location for such a lecture series to originate from. It is home to a large number of Cuban exiles and Cuban Americans. They have seen and experienced firsthand the suffering and oppression perpetrated by the Castro government against the Cuban people. 

The fact that pro-Castro voices have had a greater voice on American campuses than the voices of those who speak for democracy and human rights in Cuba is a sign that American universities are out of touch with the reality of the Orwellian nightmare that is Cuba. The Thomas P. Ray Lecture Series is an important step in combatting Castro's campaign of misinformation.

The lecture series is named in honor of Thomas "Pete" Ray, an American pilot who was summarily executed trying to liberate Cuba during the Bay of Pigs. He was a member of the Alabama National Guard. Captured and wounded he was taken to a Cuban hospital. While in the hospital a communist militia member shot and killed him in his hospital bed. During the next 18 years his family searched for his remains. Upon ascertaining were his remains were located, they had been kept frozen by the regime, the Castro government told the family that they would have to pay $36,000 in "storage fees." The University of Alabama Honors College produced a documentary, La Batalla de Playa Girón: The Alabama Air National Guard's Role in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, that provides a historical overview of the Bay of Pigs and the events surrounding the death of Thomas "Pete" Ray.

Thomas "Pete" Ray lost his life seeking to save members of the Brigade 2506 who had been abandoned when the U.S. government wanted to maintain "plausible deniability" with the "Bay of Pigs" action in 1961. 

The Free Cuba Foundation believes that by spreading the message about the Cuban reality we honor the memory of those who gave their lives in the cause of a free Cuba. One of these heroes is Thomas "Pete" Ray.

Janet Ray Weininger with a picture of her father Thomas "Pete"Ray 
 Janet Ray spent decades trying to find out what had happened to her father Thomas "Pete" Ray. Janet Ray Weininger took part in the July 13, 1995 flotilla that entered Cuban waters to pay their respects to the 37 men, women, and children massacred in the "13 de Marzo" tugboat by agents of the Cuban government on one year earlier on July 13, 1994. She had an exchange with Clinton Administration officials explaining why she would participate in the flotilla and put it in writing:

August 25, 1995 Richard Nuccio
Special Advisor to the President
and the Department of State for Cuba
The White House
OEOB Room 469
Washington DC 20500

Dear Mr. Nuccio:

Last week in Miami at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy Conference, I had the opportunity to have a brief conversation with you concerning the Democracia Flotilla to Cuba.  It is important to the struggle for the freedom of Cuba that our words be put in a hard copy form.

It is best to begin by reintroducing myself to you, for if you met me on the street you would describe me as one who represented the typical American wife and mother, carpooling the children to school, ball games, dance and music lessons with the dog in the back for companionship. I like to describe myself as Pure Vanilla with a lot of Tobasco. The Tobasco part I inherited from my father an American pilot who gave his life for the freedom of Cuba.

On the July the 13th Flotilla of which I was a participant, I couldn't go on the Democracia because I wasn't Cuban, but this time Ramon Saul Sanchez said, "Janet this time we need your flag." You forewarned me to be careful because as you said, "Cuba dosen't need another hero." I responded ,"Yes, Cuba doesn't need another hero. They just need to know the way home."

When my father made the decision to fly his final mission, he knew the highest levels of the United States government had betrayed the Brigade 2506 and Cuba under the facade of the best national interest of the United States. He made the right decision, a decision of conscience, not a selfish decision.

It is time to make decisions of conscience. It is time for Cuba to be free.


Janet Ray Weininger

Lectures and Conferences:

I Contemporary opposition to the Castro Regime

a. Exile opposition
b. Internal opposition
c. Future of the opposition movement

II Human Rights Violations in Cuba

a. Violations of the articles of the Universal Rights of Man
b. Psychiatry and repression in Cuba
c.Treatment of Political Prisoners
d.Relevant cases today

III Analysis of the Cuban Revolution

e.Current Issues
f.Future of the revolution
g.Q&A period

IV Video Presentation

a. Nobody Listened - Documentary about political prisoners
b. Improper conduct- Documentary about the treatment of "social undesirables" by the communist government.
c. The Last Communist - Frontline Documentary chronicles Castro's rise to power.
d. Last Days of the Revolution- Chronicles Cuba's reaction to the post-Cold War world.
e. Cuba and Cocaine - Frontline Documentary offers proof of the Castro regime's conspiration with International drug cartels. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Where were you the day Orlando Zapata Tamayo died?

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was unjustly imprisoned and tortured into an early grave by agents of the Castro regime, dying at the age of 42.  He would have been 45 years old this upcoming May 15. Lets not forget him or the many other victims of this regime.

Yesterday was the one year anniversary of the death by brutal beating of Cuban human rights defender Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia.

At the same time let us be vigilant and do all we can to stop the dictatorship from claiming new victims. Let us speak out for all the political prisoners and dissidents risking their lives for freedom in Cuba. At this moment a special mention should be made for Jose Daniel Ferrer Garcia who was taken early this morning while on his way to a meeting in Havana, Cuba.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Liberating Project by Monsignor Agustín Román (R.I.P.)

Monsignor Agustín Román passed away on Wednesday, April 11, 2012 just days after Father Felix Varela had been declared "venerable" by the Catholic Church during the octave of Easter while Cubans were still celebrating the 400th anniversary of the appearance of the Virgin of Charity in Cuba. This modern Felix Varela will be greatly missed. The  Christian Liberation Movement republished the 2001 text written by the Monsignor on their webpage stating that, "Ten years after this prescient call, the prophetic message of Monsignor Roman is more relevant today than ever." We share their sentiment and offer this translation.
Monsignor Agustín Román and Oswaldo Payá (2003)

Lets support the Varela Project
by Monsignor Agustín Román

The Varela Project, conceived and made known by the Christian Liberation Movement from the home territory of the Cuban nation, and inspired by the preaching of God's servant and patriot whose name it bears, comes at a timely and necessary moment. The Varela Project arrives to rekindle the flames of civic renewal, which the Cubans have desired for four decades, and that Cuba has experienced especially after the visit of Pope John Paul II in January of 1998.

This civic renewal is manifested in the emergence, during recent years, of a large number of nongovernmental organizations, such as independent libraries, professional associations, etc. This in concordance to what the Church proposes as activities for the laity in the exercise of their rights.

I am convinced that the Varela Project deserves the support from all who want to see real and nonviolent change in Cuba, for three fundamental reasons:
  • The first is that it does not seek false solutions, as would any one based on the assumption of commitments tothe Cuban government, in alleged concessions or gifts from other governments or entities. The Cuban people claim, through this project, their right to freely exercise their vote and choose through the same their political destination. If those obligated to listen to the voice of the people do not, they will be the only ones responsible for the present stalemate and its consequences in the future.
  • The second reason is that, framing itself within the laws currently in force in Cuba, facilitates the participation of a large number of Cubans who would deprived of their fear to form part of a project that cannot be described as "illegal" or " subversive. " In this manner, without barely trying, the Cuban would be becoming "the protagonist of his history" as specified by the Messenger of Truth and Hope in addressing the youth of our country in Camaguey during the above mentioned visit to Cuba.
  • And the third reason is its inclusive character, covering both the Cubans from the island and those in exile. Only through the paths of union, making good the phrase that affirms "we are one people" is that there may be for Cuba a future of liberty, justice and progress.
Moreover, in the five proposals that this project contains (political amnesty, rights to free expression, free association, free formation of businesses and reform of electoral laws), I see collected many of the approaches that have been formulated by exile organizations over the years.

All this should animate us to support this project, while, as I have always done, sought to collect once more all the most fervent prayers so that, placed at the feet of the Mother of Christ and Our Mother Mary of the Charity of Cobre, come to the Lord Jesus, Lord of Liberty in favor of Cuba and all its children.

Source: The Catholic Voice. March, 2001

Oswaldo José Payá Sardiñas on the life and legacy of Monsignor Agustín Román, (in Spanish)

Bishop Agustin Roman reflects on his life (In Spanish)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Nonviolent Struggle: A Challenge for Change in Cuba by Gene Sharp

On March 3, 2012 a couple of Cuban exile activists asked the Gene Sharp bot over twitter how they could apply his teachings to Cuba. The answer was given by Gene Sharp in Miami in June of 1996 at a gathering organized by Brothers to the Rescue at Florida International University. Free Cuba Foundation members participated in the gathering. Below are Gene Sharp's notes.

Thoughts On Developing A Plan For Liberation

Notes for an address to a conference on
Nonviolent Struggle: A Challenge for Change in Cuba

Sponsored by Brothers to the Rescue and
Florida International University
Miami, Florida, 14-15 June 1996

Copyright: Gene Sharp
The following is a publication of Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, 50 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
tel: (617) 876-0311, fax: (617)876-0837, e-mail:<>

Reprinted by Brothers to the Rescue (Hermanos al Rescate) with the author's permission.


Thank you for inviting me. It is an honor to be here among persons committed to the liberation of the Cuban people and the development of a democratic society in a liberated Cuba

I am not here to tell anyone what to do, because I do not know Cuba well and I am not Cuban.

However, I do have some knowledge of dictatorships and resistance movements, and especially struggle with political, social, economic, and psychological weapons -- i.e. pragmatic nonviolent struggle. Lest there be any misunderstanding, this discussion has nothing whatsoever to do with pacifism. This is a discussion about struggle, power, and effective means of fighting.

I intend only to offer some ideas for consideration in thinking through the problem of how to end a dictatorship and planning how best to achieve a democratic society with freedom and respect for human dignity. Those are difficult goals to reach.

I hope that these ideas may be relevant for Cuba. However, that is your decision.

Determining the objective

A responsible movement which faces dictators and hopes for freedom, must decide what is its objective. Is it to make gestures of defiance, to express its hostility, to glorify freedom, and to identify one's self as one of the 'good guys'?

Or, is the movement seriously committed to the struggle to bring down the dictatorship and to establish a viable and responsible democratic political system based on freedom and democratic principles?

The gestures of defiance are relatively easy to make. To disintegrate the dictatorship and establish a lasting working democracy are harder goals to attain.

Requirements to succeed

To succeed in both of those goals requires that a responsible movement includes persons who think, evaluate, plan, prepare, and then act in ways that can be successful

Reflect on this century which is passing

We need to remember that this has been not only a century of dictatorships -- Nazi, Communist, Maoist, military, fascist, and others. It is easy to feel that the dictatorships are all powerful, and that to feel that people are helpless

We need also to remember that this has also been a century of liberation. It has been also a century of nonviolent struggle, popular empowerment with increasing strategic sophistication of nonviolent struggle, and disintegration of dictatorships.

Those who today struggle against dictatorships can be strengthened by knowledge that the future course of history is not pre-determined. Those who believe in freedom can help to shape the future by their choices of what to do and how to act.

There are grounds for realistic hope

Provided that the exponents of freedom: use their heads and think carefully, reject ideological dogma and doctrines, plan strategically, mobilize their own sources of power, learn how to undermine the dictatorship intelligently, build independent institutions outside the dictators' control, and implement their developed strategic plans with sound judgment and courage.

Rejecting dogmas

When developing a strategic plan for liberation, it is necessary to set aside past dogmas such as these:

Belief in the necessity of violence which produces defeatism, desperation, and disasters.

The presumption that answers lie in coups d'itat, guerrilla warfare, terrorism, military adventurism, or foreign intervention.

Belief in the omnipotence of dictatorships. They actually may be fragile if action is taken to strike where they are weakest, where they are vulnerable, at the very sources of their power.

Temptations to a democracy movement which must be resisted

A democracy movement may be tempted to make promises or to take actions which may sound good at the time, but which may in the long-run only help present or future dictators.

These temptations include the making of excessive and undeliverable promises in efforts to get support during the struggle -- promises which later cannot be kept and will lead to disillusionment and even longing for a return of the dictatorship.

Another temptation is to try to fight with the dictators' best weapon: violence. This choice can lead either to (1) defeat of the democracy movement or (2) a new dictatorship by the "democratic military" or a coup d'itat clique.

In focusing attention on the dictatorship there may be a temptation to ignore issue of social justice (economic, racial, etc.). The lack of attention to social justice often leaves that issue to the dictators (and hands them important supporters, which are lost to the democratic forces and who are betrayed by the dictators). This is very important.

There are several additional temptations which must be avoided by a democratic movement. There include the temptation
to idolize a democratic leader, who may therefore become a target for assassination or corruption, thereby weakening the mass movement on which victory depends

Another temptation is to be content with a pattern of reaction to the dictators' initiatives, This condemns the movement to weakness and ineffectiveness, and to fail to seize the initiative with careful action based on a wise strategy which has been developed for that situation.

Democrats may sometimes be tempted themselves to violate democratic standards, supposedly to increase their own effectiveness. The results can be tragic.

Two more temptations are common. One of these is to ignore the potential for a coup d'itat conducted either to pre-empt the democratic struggle or to seize control of the state when the dictatorship collapses. A movement which has ignored this potential and failed to prepare to resist a coup d'itat if and when it comes, may find that it faces a new dictatorship, potentially worse then the old ones, and one more difficult to resist.

When the dictatorship collapses, the democrats may then to fail to institutionalize a democratic system and may flounder in the early stages of a democracy. The result may be to discredit democracy, to create a longing for the 'good old days' under the deposed dictators, and to open the way for acceptance of a new dictatorship.

There are many democrats who lack confidence that an end to the dictatorship is really possible

Remarkably, there are in pro-democracy movements those who despite their words do not really believe the dictatorship can be destroyed and a new democratic system created. These persons really continue to believe in the omnipotence of the dictators and that the violence of dictators is the real power in the conflict.

Consequently, they are content with making only gestures of defiance and dissent against the dictators and denunciations of any who disagree with them. Gestures and denunciations are tragically all that they believe to be possible -- not actually ending the dictatorship and bringing in freedom.

Those persons may quickly deny that they believe in this way. Perhaps in their hearts they wish it were otherwise, but they see no realistic basis to believe that the goal of freedom can actually be achieved. The consequence is weak protest gestures, unrealistic or unambitious plans, and failure to prepare for bringing an end to the dictatorship and introduction of freedom

Is disintegration of a dictatorship and the institution of democracy really possible?

The answer is simple. It has already happened elsewhere.

Kenneth Boulding and one of the Greek philosophers both understood this, when they observed: "That which exists is possible."

"Lo que existe es posible." An insight which is not very complicated but is profound.

Extreme dictatorships have already been disintegrated.

Extreme dictatorships have already in recent years been disintegrated in several countries. This has usually occurred after some years of severe repression and the slow growth of noncooperation and defiance, which gradually escalated to shake the foundations of the dictatorship

Examples from recent years of this pattern of success include East Germany, Czechoslovakia, the Philippines, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, and Poland.

Examples of earlier years include El Salvador and Guatemala in 1944,

Additionally, nonviolent struggle has played important roles in the liberation of South Africa, undermining the military regime in Argentina, contributing to the liberation of Hungary, and freeing India from the British Empire.

Nonviolent struggle has been used in the United States civil rights struggles for the rights of African-Americans, in the Soviet Union for the rights of Jews, and in struggles for civil liberties and for environmental protection in several countries.

This type of struggle has been used, temporarily unsuccessfully, by Chinese democrats in 1989 and by Burmese Democrats in 1988

Symbolic protests, economic boycotts, labor strikes, many kinds of political noncooperation, disruptive demonstrations, sit-ins, and parallel governments have been practiced over the decades and centuries in many countries.

In the past few weeks we have seen the resurrection of nonviolent struggle in Burma by the National League for Democracy and its leader Aung San Suu Kyi in brilliant moves which put the military dictators on the defensive and mobilized significant power from the supposedly powerless masses.

How is all this possible?

All this has been possible in the past and similar and more powerful actions will be possible in the future because:

First, dictators are never as powerful as they want you to believe. There are always some things they want to do but are unable to do.

Second, dictatorships contain important internal weaknesses, problems, and conflicts which are usually hidden from the wider public

Resistance needs to be carefully focused on these weaknesses and their dependencies in order to make the greatest impact

Principal lessons of past struggles include:

Never attack dictators where they are strongest -- in military power, because one will almost always lose.

Always attack dictators where they are weakest and are least able to respond effectively. This will increase the impact of the resistance and aggravate the dictatorship's problems and vulnerabilities.

Why should this be true?

This is possible because of this important insight: all dictatorships, and indeed all governments, are dependent on a constant supply of several sources of power.

Power is essential in all social and political systems.

Power is the combination of all influences and pressures, including punishments, available for use to control the situation, to control people and institutions, or to mobilize people and institutions for some activity.

Political power is intrinsic to politics, and is involved, directly or indirectly in all political action. Without effective power it is impossible to achieve one's goal, to defeat hostile forces, and to defend positive gains.

Political power is not intrinsic to those who wield it. Power comes from the society they rule, and there are specific sources of that power.

These sources of power include:

Authority (or legitimacy, belief in the right of some group or person to lead and give orders);
Human resources (who and how many people obey and assist the power holder);
Skills & knowledge (what kind and to what degree these are available to the power-holder)
Intangible factors (religious, emotional, and belief systems)
Material resources (economic, financial, transportation, and communications)
Sanctions (or punishments, violent or nonviolent)

The extent to which these sources are supplied to those who would wield power determines whether they are strong, weak, or only objects of ridicule.

These sources of power are supplied to the regime by various "pillars of support" in the society.

These pillars of support include:

Religious and moral leaders help in the case of authority

All sections of the population in the case of human resources -- people who cooperate, obey, and assist the regime

Specialists with particular abilities and capacities in the case of skills and knowledge

Acceptance of the pattern of submission and of beliefs which lead to obedience and help in the case of intangible factors

Cooperation in the functioning of the financial economic, transportation, and communications system in the case of material factors -- and

Fear and submission in face of threatened punishments by the regime, and obedience by the police and military of orders to inflict repression on those who disobey or refuse to cooperate

Yet, all of these sources of power are not automatically available because the pillars of support may choose not to provide those sources..

These sources of power can be restricted, their supply slowed, or outright refused.

Undermining and mobilizing power

Consequently, the regime will be weakened and at times subjected to political starvation. Without being "fed" by supply of the sources of power, the dictators cannot remain powerful.

If the acceptance of the regime, cooperation with it, and obedience to it are ended, the regime must weaken and collapse

This explains the phenomenon of 'people power' or nonviolent struggle, and the collapse of the dictatorships which we earlier cited.

Parallel with the weakening of the power to the regime by noncooperation and disobedience is the mobilization of power capacity by the general population, which has previously been thought to be weak and helpless in face of the regime's organizational and repressive capacity.


This struggle will not be easy or without cost. One must expect repression.

This disobedience and noncooperation will be not be welcomed by the dictatorship because it is nonviolent.

To the contrary, this resistance will be seen to be more dangerous to the dictatorship than opposition violence. The regime is likely to see this type of resistance for what it is -- a realistic effort to disintegrate the dictatorship.

Consequently the dictatorship will respond with denunciations, lies, imprisonments, violent repression, provocations to violence, and assassinations

Four important tasks

If one wants to attempt to undermine a dictatorship by these means, there are four important tasks which need to be undertaken:

(1) study the requirements, history, and strategic principles of nonviolent struggle;

(2) spread the knowledge of this type of struggle;

(3) develop a wise strategic plan for liberation based on knowledge of the specific situation and of the requirements and dynamics of nonviolent struggle; and

(4) mobilize the dominated population to correct its own weaknesses and increase its strengths, so that it is capable of dissolving the oppressive dictatorship and carry out a successful transition to a democratic system.

Strategies of liberation

Several strategies of phased campaigns are likely to be required to undermine a dictatorship and later to achieve its disintegration.

As the long-term struggle develops beyond the initial symbolic strategies into more ambitious and advanced phases, the strategists will need to calculate how the dictators' sources of power can be further restricted.

The time will come when the democratic forces can move beyond selective resistance at key political or economic points and instead launch mass noncooperation and defiance intended to disintegrate the dictatorship.

The combination of strong noncooperation and defiance and the building of independent institutions of civil society is likely in time to produce widespread supportive international action but one must not depend on that.

The dictatorship disintegrates

When confronted with the increasingly empowered population and the growth of independent democratic groups and institutions -- both of which the dictators are unable to control -- the dictators will find that their whole venture is unraveling.

Massive shut-downs of the society, general strikes, mass stay-at-homes, defiant marches, loss of control of the economy, transportation system, and communications, slow-downs and defiance by the civil service and police, disguised disobedience or outright mutiny by the military, or other activities will increasingly undermine the dictators' own organization and related institutions.

As a consequence of such defiance and noncooperation, executed wisely and with mass participation over time, the dictators would become powerless and the democratic forces would, without violence, triumph.

The dictatorship would disintegrate before the defiant population when these actions occur:

When the religious and moral leaders in the society denounce the regime as illegitimate,

When the masses of the people are disobeying orders and noncooperating with the dictatorship (and instead obeying the democratic leadership),

When journalists and broadcasters are defying censorship and issuing their own publications and programs,

When the transportation system operates only according to the needs of the democratic forces,

When the civil servants are ignoring the dictatorship's policies and orders,

When the police refuse to arrest democratic resisters

When the army has gone on strike

Then, the power of the dictators has dissolved.

The democratic forces should be aware that in some situations the collapse of the dictatorship may occur extremely rapidly, as in East Germany in 1989.

The democrats should calculate in advance how the transition from the dictatorship to the interim government shall be handled at the end of the struggle, so as to establish a viable democratic system.

The path should be blocked to any persons or group which would like to become the new dictators.

Advantages of this kind of liberation

Among the advantages of this type of struggle for liberation are these:

It is more likely to bring about an end to the dictatorship than violence, which may entrench the regime.

The struggle can be conducted self-reliantly without dependence on foreign governments, which may have their own objectives and be unreliable allies.

Potentially the whole population can participate in the nonviolent struggle for liberation, and not only a restricted group of the population.

The casualty rates, though potentially serious, are most likely to be significantly lower than in a violent resistance movement.

The struggle will require much lower economic costs than a violent struggle, because no military arms and ammunition will be required.

The society will not suffer massive physical destruction, as is likely in a civil war.

No group in command of military forces will be ready to impose a new dictatorship after 'victory".

Nonviolent struggle has strong democratizing effects through the process of diffusing power throughout the society and 'arming' the people with knowledge of how to struggle against future oppressors.


In conclusion, may I call attention to three main points relevant for planning a liberation struggle against dictators.

Knowledge of the nature and use of nonviolent struggle is power potential.

With new knowledge of this option and confidence in its capacity, people in situations in which they otherwise would passively submit, be crushed, or use self-defeating violence, can apply these forms of nonviolent struggle -- and wield power.

Knowledge of how to act, how to organize, and how to transform one's power potential into effective power through nonviolent struggle enables otherwise weak people to wield effective power and to help to determine the future of their own lives and society.

Coretta Scott King and Jose Basulto of Brothers to the Rescue

Copyright Gene Sharp
The above is a publication of Gene Sharp, Senior Scholar at the Albert Einstein Institution, 50 Church Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
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