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Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cognitive dissonance and UNESCO

If you are content with the old world, try to preserve it, it is very sick and cannot hold out much longer. But if you cannot bear to live in everlasting dissonance between your beliefs and your life, thinking one thing and doing another, get out of the medieval whited sepulchers, and face your fears. I know very well it is not easy.  - Leo Tolstoy

Kendra Cherry describes cognitive dissonance as something that "can occur in many areas of life, but it is particularly evident in situations where an individual's behavior conflicts with beliefs that are integral to his or her self-identity."

The same holds true for international organizations such as the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) that was created in 1945, according to its online introduction, "in order to respond to the firm belief of nations, forged by two world wars in less than a generation, that political and economic agreements are not enough to build a lasting peace. Peace must be established on the basis of humanity’s moral and intellectual solidarity." 

This is the fundamental belief and mission statement of UNESCO that is contradicted by its celebration and preservation of the works of a man who advocated war without limits that led to a generation plunged into dirty wars and bloodshed.

The man whose life and works UNESCO is now safeguarding and no doubt seeking to impart to others is the man who advocated killing without mercy.
"Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy." - Ernesto "Che" Guevara Havana, Message to the Tricontinental April 16, 1967.
 This is the Ernesto "Che" Guevara who stood in the podium of the United Nations on December 11, 1964 and bragged of the firing squads were underway in Cuba: 

We must say here something that is a well-known truth and that we have always asserted before the whole world: executions? Yes, we have executed people; we are executing people and shall continue to execute people as long as it is necessary.
 Che Guevara was an admirer of Mao Zedong and his formulation of guerilla warfare is adapted from the Chinese leader. Che published influential manuals Guerrilla Warfare (1961) and Guerrilla Warfare: A Method (1963), which were based on his own experiences and partly chairman Mao Zedong's writings. Guevara stated that revolution in Latin America must come through insurgent forces developed in rural areas with peasant support. His international legacy of glorifying violence through an erroneous analysis of guerilla warfare, based on his experiences with the Batista army, which was too incompetent and corrupt to fight, and applying Zedong’s writings on the subject led to bloodbaths in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chiapas, Congo, Angola and decades of military dictatorship and political violence. 

Meanwhile, a man of peace, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas who died on July 22, 2012 under suspicious circumstances that point to Cuban government involvement whose writings are ignored by UNESCO. Until the present date the request by the Payá family to the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the killings of Oswaldo and Harold Cepero have not been responded to. Perhaps, the inaction is another example of cognitive dissonance at the United Nations.

UNESCO claims to want to defend peace and sustainable development and offers as part of its mission concrete parameters to build and enable networks of solidarity between and among nations by:
  • Mobilizing for education: so that every child, boy or girl, has access to quality education as a fundamental human right and as a prerequisite for human development.
  • Building intercultural understanding: through protection of heritage and support for cultural diversity. UNESCO created the idea of World Heritage to protect sites of outstanding universal value.
  • Pursuing scientific cooperation: such as early warning systems for tsunamis or trans-boundary water management agreements, to strengthen ties between nations and societies.
  • Protecting freedom of expression: an essential condition for democracy, development and human dignity.
 Ernesto "Che" Guevara and his allies that took power in Cuba did away with freedom of expression and created a totalitarian dictatorship that has prevented the return of democracy to Cuba for over 54 years. Even today Amnesty International describes the climate of fear that exists in Cuba imposed by restrictions on freedom of expression.

Instead of the shameful celebration of Guevara perhaps UNESCO should look to preserving and protecting the works and legacy of  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas who on December 17, 2002 said the following at the European Parliament and lived it until his dying day:
 “ The first victory we can claim is that our hearts are free of hatred. Hence we say to those who persecute us and who try to dominate us: You are my brother. I do not hate you, but you are not going to dominate me by fear. I do not wish to impose my truth, nor do I wish you to impose yours on me. We are going to seek the truth together.”
This would be an act in accordance with the mission and values that UNESCO claims to uphold and would starkly contrast with the shameful action of June 18, 2013 that is in contradiction to the very values this organization claims to uphold.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr., FCF Co-Chair 2009-2010 looks back over his tenure

20th Tiananmen Square anniversary panel on June 4, 2009 at University of Miami
 August 24th of this year marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of Free Cuba Foundation (FCF). Serving as President co-chair along with Julio Menache (2009-2010) proved to be a rewarding experience full of activities, networking, and productive meetings in order to advance a democratic transition in Cuba. Among the highlights of our tenure include a vigil for the Tiananmen Square anniversary, Tugboat massacre discussion forum, and we had as a guest speaker Félix Ismael Rodríguez, the CIA agent responsible for capturing Ernesto "Che" Guevara". Other remarkable events include the participation in the multi-organizational "Asamblea de la Resistencia" conference to collaborate among distinguished organizations like the Cuban Democratic Directorate and MAR Por Cuba. Perhaps the most influential activity was the privilege to meet and interview Hubert Matos, the Cuban revolutionary commander imprisoned for over 20 years for dissenting with Fidel Castro and his "Revolutionary" ideas.   
Serving FCF helped me to appreciate the liberties we enjoy in the United States. The adventure allowed me to grow as an individual and become a productive member of society. In continuing this trend, this upcoming Fall semester I will start my graduate studies as a Doctor in Clinical Psychology (Psy. D) at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Despite my relocation to the "Windy City", I will never forget the important work that the men and women inside and out of the island do every day to one day achieve a free and democratic Cuba. Most notably, the lives of dissidents like Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Laura Pollan, Oswaldo Paya, and Harold Cepero will forever serve as a reminder of the costly price of freedom.
Juan Carlos Sanchez Jr.
President Co-chair (2009-2010)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero: One year later

One Year Without Answers, Without Oswaldo, Without Harold...

“Already many Cubans have discovered and soon all of them will discover that this oppression, that this imposed lie, can be overcome recognizing ourselves as brothers to conquer our rights peacefully. So there is hope.”
~ Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas,  Somos Liberación Havana, Cuba, July  2012.

"Christians and non-Christians who have the courage and the freedom to consider the peaceful political option for their lives, know they are exposing themselves to slightly less than absolute solitude, to work exclusion, to persecution, to prison or death. "
- Harold Cepero, Havana 2012

We remember Oswaldo and Harold and their sacrifices for a Free Cuba.

On Friday night we sat with and listened to Ofelia, Rosa Maria, and Tony talk about their friends and loved ones and their legacy.

Over twitter today we are remembering them and tonight at 8:00pm we will be praying for them at a Mass at La Ermita de la Caridad.


As a student movement that started in August of 1993 we embraced and raised awareness about Oswaldo's projects early on and over the years and translated some of his earlier statements. For example in 1997 when bombs went off in Havana we translated a document the Christian Liberation Movement had prepared which in part stated:
No one can justify terrorist violence and attacks on defenseless human beings with any kind of reasoning, and much less by pretending to defend freedom and justice. Anyone who hides cynically to make attempts against human life violates the dignity of the human being and conspires against freedom and justice.
 The end does not justify the means. Lies and terror lead to death and fear. Truth and love produce freedom and life.
FREEDOM AND LIFE, a phrase first pronounced by the Christian Liberation Movement in its Proclamation Document, continues to be the essence of the path and the goal that we are determined to follow.
The document was signed by four courageous men, the leading signer was Oswaldo Paya Sardiñas followed by Antonio Ramón Díaz Sánchez, Ramón Antunez Gonzalez and Miguel Saludes García

One would also remember that the current dictatorship in Cuba engaged in acts of terror in the name of freedom in the struggle against Batista and the world later saw how that ended with a dictatorship that did not last seven years replaced by one that has gone on for more than 50. 

We translated other documents from Spanish to English and from a distance followed his remarkable life as an activist. Including his efforts to get on the ballot to run for public office that placed the dictatorship on the defensive and awards that he won.

We saw his efforts to unite the opposition in an All United coalition that then went about collecting signatures for the Varela Project.

Neri Martinez, president of the Free Cuba Foundation, when Oswaldo Payá visited Miami in 2003 was able to see and meet him.

Years later five members of the Free Cuba Foundation backed Oswaldo's call for a National Dialogue in 2009:
Jenny Grau, F.C.F., EUA 
Susana Navajas, F.C.F., EUA 
Yosvani Oliva, F.C.F., EUA
Pedro M. Ross, F.C.F., EUA

John Suárez, F.C.F., EUA
Without knowing it when Juanes decided to hold a peace without borders concert in Cuba our views coincided with Oswaldo's that the Columbian singer had the right to go to Cuba and to sing. Furthermore that it was not fair to question human rights defenders about Juanes's concert. Oswaldo pointed out that the press should question Juanes about the integrity of not speaking up about human rights defenders and peace activists imprisoned in Cuba while holding a peace without borders concert.

We did precisely the same thing in a statement that we released prior to the 2009 concert. We defended the musicians right to play in Cuba but then said: 
...speaking up for human rights and the immediate release of all prisoners of conscienceis essential. Only then will this concert truly live up to its name of “Peace Without Borders”, otherwise it risks being remembered as the “Censored Within Boundaries” concert. This is the concern raised by many Cuban artists both on the island and in exile, who insist the concert live up to its name. 
 We mourn the loss of a great friend of Cuba and offer our condolences to his family and friends and join them in prayers for Oswaldo and Harold. Today we pray and remember and tomorrow we continue in the struggle for a Free Cuba.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero: Celebrating their Memory

Accompany us in the Commemoration of the First Anniversary of the Death of 
Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero
Friday, 19 of July 2013
Time: 8:00 PM
La Sagrada Famlia Salon at the Inmaculada Church 
4497 West 1st Avenue, Hialeah, Florida 33012 Members of the Christian Liberation Movement invite the community to a Colloquium about the legacy of Oswaldo Payá  
Monday, July 22, 2013
Time: 8:00 PM
Ermita de la Caridad.
3609 South Miami Ave Miami, Fl. 33133 
 The Payá  family and the Christian Liberation Movement invite you to accompany us in the celebration for a Eucharistic Celebration in the memory of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero that will be presided by the Rector of  Our Lady of Charity Father Juan Rumin Dominguez

Saturday, July 13, 2013

One time were remaining silent speaks volumes

Remembering the Victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre at FIU today

One time when remaining silent speaks volumes. 19 minutes of silence, one minute for each year that has passed without justice for the victims of the July 13, 1994  "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre.

In the days leading up to today's protest the Free Cuba Foundation disseminated information through the social media and called for hashtags to be used to remind others of what happened on that terrible day: a  

Free Cuba Foundation members and friends of the organization gathered in silence to recall a crime and to continue the demand for justice today, July 13, 2013, at 12 noon at Florida International University(FIU) as we have done over the past nineteen years.

For nineteen minutes we listened in silence to rushing water from the Main Fountain at FIU and thought back to July 13, 1994 when 37 men, women, and children were extrajudicially executed by Cuban government agents.

The sounds of the rushing water from the main fountain led participants to imagine what the Cubans blasted by water cannons went through while that heinous crime was being committed.

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas described it as " one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba." The city of Havana was founded in 1519. 

 Unless the individuals responsible for this crime are brought to justice over the next 12 months then, if physically possible, we will be back here once again at 12 noon next year and holding a silent 20 minute protest for justice.

Justice maybe delayed but it will not be denied.

Justice for the victims of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre

Thursday, July 11, 2013

"13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre: Justice maybe delayed but it will not be denied

"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
37men, women, and children killed on July 13, 1994

This Saturday will mark nineteen years that have passed since 37 men, women and children were massacred by agents of the Cuban government as they tried to find a better life in freedom. On the early morning hours of July 13, 1994 the "13 de Marzo" tugboat left Havana harbor bound for the United States only to be intercepted six miles from the Malecón by other tugs that rammed and sank it while being monitored by the Cuban coastguard.

 Over the past 19 years this day has been a time to remember and to organize actions for others to remember this crime and demand justice. This year is no different. On July 13, 2013 please join in the campaign over social media to tweet and post "13 de Marzo tugboat" or "Remolcador 13 de marzo" in Spanish along with links to videos and reports explaining and documenting the atrocity.

This is not about revenge. It is the pursuit of justice and truth through time which requires persistence and memory.

Useful video and 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

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, Harold Cepero and the "13 de Marzo" tugboat, massacre

 Remembering two terrible days in July in Cuba

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

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

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

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


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