My title page contents

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Vigil for Victims of Castro and Maduro held at FIU on #24F

Silent Vigil for Justice on February 24, 2014 between 3:21pm and 3:27pm

 On February 24, 2014 starting at 3:21pm and ending promptly at 3:27pm there was a moment of silence for the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shootdown that claimed the lives of Armando, Carlos, Mario and Pablo. This year we once again recognized and honored prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights published the most complete report on the February 24, 1996 shoot down and is available online.

Tragically, over the past two weeks at least 12 Venezuelan students have been murdered by agents of the Maduro regime in Caracas which is a puppet of the Castro regime in Havana. Therefore today we also prayed for them all and specifically for Bassil, Roberto, José Ernesto, and Génesis. We recognized their sacrifice and prayed for justice.

Following the vigil Miriam de la Peña whose own son, (Mario de la Peña) was murdered by the Castro regime spoke about the violence taking place against the students in Venezuela.

Below is a copy of the flier we distributed on campus:

Sunday, February 23, 2014

#24F Silent Vigil for Justice at FIU

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King Jr. 

"Violence is the tool of he who does not have reason."- Leopoldo Lopez , youtube video released after his arrest on February 19, 2014

On February 24, 2014 at beginning at 3:21pm and ending at 3:27pm we will be holding a silent vigil to demand justice for the four victims of the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down that took place 18 years ago today, and for the students murdered by agents of the Maduro puppet regime in Venezuela over the past two weeks, and finally in remembrance of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the Cuban hunger striker who died on February 23, 2010 after years of torture. This vigil will be held were it has been for the past 18 years at the main fountain at Florida International University at the campus located on 107th Ave. and SW 8 St. This is an open invitation for FIU students and members of the university community.  

Orlando Zapata Tamayo: Four years later

"I come on behalf of the 75, I come in the name of Freedom ... Long live the internal opposition. Long live the Ladies in White"... On the anniversary of our murdered brothers, our brothers sunk on July 13, 1994, our brothers of February 24th ... and on behalf of all of Cuba and the exile, long live the homeland of Varela, of Marti, of George Washington, of Barack Obama, democratic and free forever. Long live a Free Cuba. Down with Fidel Castro. " - Orlando Zapata Tamayo, 2009 from a Cuban prison

Orlando Zapata Tamayo (1967 - 2010)
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was born on May 15, 1967 and died a victim of the Castro regime on February 23, 2010. He was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and as a human rights defender collected signatures for the Varela Project collaborating with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and the Christian Liberation Movement. Orlando Zapata also collaborated closely with Oscar Elias Biscet and took part in teach-ins on human rights in what were called "human rights circles".  It is important to mention this because the Cuban dictatorship has engaged in a slander campaign against this man.

Oswaldo Payá pays homage to Orlando Zapata in 2010
 Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas had campaigned to save the life of Orlando Zapata and spoke out on his behalf in a Spanish television program in January of 2010, a month prior to his death. Tragically, two and a half years after Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death, on July 22, 2012 Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero were killed under suspicious circumstances that implicate State Security.

*Original text in Spanish: "Vengo en nombre de los 75, Vengo en nombre de la Libertad ...  Viva la oposición interna. Vivan las Damas de Blanco". ...En el aniversario de nuestros hermanos asesinado, nuestros hermanos hundido el 13 de julio del 1994, nuestro hermanos del 24 de febrero ... y en nombre de todos y del exilio de Cuba, viva la patria de Varela, de Martí, de George Washington, de Barack Obama, libre y democrática para siempre. Viva Cuba Libre. Abajo Fidel Castro".

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Castro's killing of innocents: Then and Now

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King Jr.
Two groups of young people separated by 18 years and hundreds of miles but joined together in two fundamental ways.

First, they all decided to serve their neighbor. They took a stand.

Mario, Armando, Carlos, and Pablo were members of Brothers to the Rescue an organization that searched the Florida Straights providing life saving water and food to fleeing rafters. Brothers to the Rescue saved thousands of lives in the 1990s. 

Bassil, Roberto, José Ernesto, and Génesis took to the streets to demonstrate in favor of human rights and a democratic restoration of their homeland. Millions of young people are challenging the totalitarian trend of Venezuela and at this hour are all that stand between Venezuela becoming a totalitarian dictatorship. 

These eight young people took a stand to serve others. 

This is one thing that they have in common.

The second is that all were murdered on the orders of agents of the Castro dictatorship in the month of February. 

We will remember and honor them in a moment of silence at Florida International University on February 24, 1996 between 3:21pm and 3:27pm at the main fountain.

You are welcome to join us. No speeches. No noise. Just silence and reflection during that time to honor those who took a stand to help others.

Join silent vigil for victims of Castro and Maduro regimes

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King Jr.

"Violence is the tool of he who does not have reason."- Leopoldo Lopez , youtube video released after his arrest on February 19, 2014

Students murdered by Chavistas during student marches
On February 24, 2014 at beginning at 3:21pm and ending at 3:27pm we will be holding a silent vigil to demand justice for the students murdered by agents of Maduro and Castro in Venezuela over the past two weeks, the victims of the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, the Cuban hunger striker who died in 2010 after years of torture and humiliation. We will also be calling for the freedom of  activists in Venezuela and in Cuba who have had their homes invaded and searched by government agents without search warrants. This vigil will be held were it has been for the past 18 years at the main fountain at Florida International University at the campus located on 107th Ave. and SW 8 St. This is an open invitation for FIU students and members of the university community. 

Our prayers and thoughts are with Venezuela's students as they stand up and take to the streets in defense of their freedom. We mourn with them the murders of Bassil Da Costa (age 24), Roberto Redman (age 31) both shot in the head and killed and José Ernesto Méndez (age 17) run over by a car driven by a Chavez supporter. They were all protesting the Maduro regime and the Cuban presence in the country. In one of life's tragic ironies, hours before he was killed Roberto had carried the lifeless body of Bassil and tweeted it only to be gunned down hours later by agents of the Maduro regime. Others have been grievously wounded such as Génesis Carmona (age 22) shot in head by motorized paramilitaries called "colectivos" that have been firing on the nonviolent student demonstrators is fighting for her life in a Venezuelan hospital.

Génesis Carmona: Shot in the head in Caracas on 2/18/14

Now Amnesty International is calling for an investigation into the demonstration deaths in Venezuela as it did 20 years ago in the "13 de Marzo"tugboat killings in Cuba.

For the past 55 years Cubans have suffered under a totalitarian dictatorship that has killed many in Cuba, but the regime did not limit itself to the substantial body count in the island, that included massacres of fleeing refugees, but also went abroad and assisted war criminals such as Mengistu Haile Mariam to carry out a genocide in Ethiopia in the 1970s and early 80s that went into the hundreds of thousands. Bob Marley, the legendary reggae singer, denounced the Castro dictatorship at the time.

Since the presidency of Hugo Chavez, the dictatorship in Cuba has been sending soldiers to Venezuela and reshaping the Venezuelan military along the Castro model which seeks to divide and crush dissent. In 2010, the New York Times reported on concerns raised about Cuban infiltration of Venezuela's military. The concerns were well grounded. Today, Venezuelan students are being arbitrarily detained, tortured, shot in the head, and disappeared for nonviolently demonstrating their desires for a free Venezuela. The patterns of repression are familiar to Cubans because they were designed in Havana.

Unfortunately, now we share in the month of February not only patriotic dates from the wars of independence from Spain, but also of martyrs murdered by agents of the Cuban dictatorship and the man who was selected in Havana to be the next president of Venezuela: Nicolas Maduro.

Over the past 20 years we have held silent vigils at Florida International University, first for the victims of the "13 de Marzo"tugboat massacre that took place on July 13, 1994,  but beginning in 1996 in the month of February we have held a silent vigils for the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down that claimed the lives of four humanitarians: Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre who sought to save the lives of rafters in the Florida Straits on the orders of Fidel and Raul Castro. On February 23, 2010, Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after a prolonged hunger strike in reaction to numerous beatings and acts of torture that drove him to that extreme protest. Right now a Cuban democratic opposition leader has been on hunger strike since February 10, 2014 protesting the abuses of the Castro dictatorship and fear for his life.

Yesterday, we heard the words of Leopoldo Lopez before turning himself over to the regime that had slandered his name and accused him of fleeing Venezuela in the previous days addressed an audience of tens of thousands who turned out to march alongside him:
"Well brothers and sisters I ask you to continue in this fight and do not leave the street, to assume our right to protest, but to do it in peace and without violence, I ask that us, all of us that are here, all of the Venezuelans that want a change, to get informed, educated, organized, and to execute non-violent protests, the protests of masses, and the will of souls and hearts that want to change, but without hurting your neighbor. "
 There is no better way to observe the Season of Nonviolence then discovering a new nonviolent exemplar to emulate while at the same time gathering on February 24th in a silent and nonviolent demonstration demanding justice for the victims of these two regimes and freedom for Antunez and Leopoldo.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

María Elena Cruz Varela presents her self titled book at Cafe Demetrio

A Courageous Cuban poet and intellectual takes a look back
María Elena Cruz Varela

Friday night, February 7, 2014 friends and admirers gather in the courtyard of Cafe Demetrio in Coral Gables, Florida to listen to the poetry and reflections of María Elena Cruz Varela twenty years after being exiled. She has not been able to return to Cuba and was unable to see her father before he passed. Below are excerpts from her presentation that evening which includes a powerful poem dedicated to her dad.

Its a long way from her days of being subjected to a bloody act of repudiation and years in prison for refusing to be submissive and live in the lie that Fidel Castro was the daddy and 11 million Cubans the children who must obey.  Mairym Cruz-Bernal in a July 1, 1995 essay published in The American Poetry Review wrote about her encounter with the poet:
Maria Elena described to me how, made to kneel in the street, she had clenched her teeth and refused to open her mouth until she could taste her own blood, could see it flow on the ground before her. But as her accusers cursed and beat her she remained silent. Six days after her arrest, a closed trial was held, the official charges against her, "illegal association and libel."

Maria Elena's accounts of the arrest blurred with stories of her subsequent imprisonment, blurred with her cellmates' stories, some of which would later find their way into her poems, and some that would not - among them a fellow inmate's dispassionate report to Maria Elena that she had strangled her newborn because she couldn't stand the sound of the crying. Maria Elena recalled her own fourteen year old son's first visit to see her. Soon I would learn from the poet's family that our initial meeting marked the first time Maria Elena had spoken to anyone of her two years in prison. As yet stranger to her, I had become the person through whom she could, as she later described it, exorcise the demons of her memory.
 On Tuesday, February 11, 2014 a different kind of poet, a punk rocker and musician, Gorki Águila will be subjected to a summary show trial. Twenty years have passed but the underlying nature of the dictatorship has not changed nor has the courage of some Cubans to defy it. Please take a moment and sign the petition for his freedom.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

#FREEGORKI El Himno No-Violento de Porno para Ricardo

"Versión del tema del cantautor Catalán Luis Ilach que en los años 80 fue convertido en himno por la resistencia Polaca contra el comunismo." - Porno para Ricardo

Porno para Ricardo re-interpretan La Estaca y convierten la canción de Luis Ilach en un himno a la lucha no-violenta.


Compositor: Lluis Llach, Ciro Diaz Penedo

Letra -

El viejo Félix me hablaba
Con el alba en el portal
Mientras esperábamos el sol
Viendo los tanques pasar

Dice que no ves la estaca
A la que atan nuestros pies
Si no podemos soltarnos
Nunca podremos correr

Si la empujamos caerá
Es que no puede durar mas
Seguro cae, cae, cae
Porque bien podrida está

Si tu la empujas por aquí
Y yo la empujo por allá
Claro que cae, cae, cae
Y nos podremos librar

Pero ha pasado algún tiempo ya
Mis manos están sangrando
Cuando abandono un instante
Se hace mas gruesa y mas grande
Ya bien se que esta podrida
Pero aun así pesa tanto
Que a veces las fuerzas se me van
Canta esta canción mas alto.

Si la empujamos caerá.
Es que no puede durar mas.
Claro que cae, cae, cae,
porque bien podrida esta.

Y yo la empujo por aquí,
Tu empujas fuerte por alla,
claro que cae, cae, cae,
y nos podremos librar.

El viejo Félix no me habla ya
Mal viento se lo llevó
El sabe a donde mientras que yo
Sigo aquí esperando el sol
Y cuando veo pasar
A los muchachos de hoy
Alzo mi voz y vuelvo a cantar
La canción que el me enseñó.

Si la empujamos caerá.
Es que no puede durar mas.
Seguro cae, cae, cae,
porque bien podrida esta.

Si yo empujo por aquí,
Tu empujas fuerte por alla,
claro que cae, cae, cae,
claro que cae, cae, cae,
 claro que cae, cae, cae,
 claro que cae, cae, cae,
 claro que cae, cae, cae,
 Ya! Ya! Ya!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

#FreeGorki: Let a Free Man be a Free Man

“Freedom of mind is the real freedom. A person whose mind is not free though he may not be in chains, is a slave, not a free man. One whose mind is not free, though he may not be in prison, is a prisoner and not a free man. One whose mind is not free though alive, is no better than dead. Freedom of mind is the proof of one's existence.” - Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar

Poster by Rolando Pulido
Gorki Águila is an extremely dangerous man for the dictatorship in Cuba. He is dangerous not for what he has done but for who he is: a free man who has overcome his fears to live the life of a free man in the totalitarian environment that is Cuba. He is exercising what the Czech dissident and playwrite Vaclav Havel described as the power of the powerless and that is to live in truth. In Cuba, as in any other totalitarian dictatorship that has been in power for a long time, what people say and do publicly, for the most part, has nothing to do with what they really believe. Gorki and the other members of Porno para Ricardo have broken that pattern and are saying and singing what they actually think.  Despite the repression and terror visited on them, they are free men.

Gorki faces a ten year prison term in a summary show trial organized by the Castro regime that is reminiscent of the trials organized by Stalin in the 1930s. The verdict is known beforehand and what happens inside the courtroom will make no impact. However, what happens outside of the court room does matter and can be the difference for Gorki of ten years in prison or freedom.  This is why he has made a call to all people of good will to demonstrate their solidarity. What he asking for is what the Czech philosopher, Jan Patočka, called the solidarity of the shaken.

At the same time the apologists of the dictatorship are mounting a campaign to smear and slander his name. They've gone as far to dispute that he is a musician. For that reason the following playlist featuring Gorki over the past decade is a public defense exhibit in the public trial of this artist and musician.

Gorki (wearing t-shirt calling for Biscet's freedom) with friends in Havana, Cuba

FCF members met Gorki in the past and found him to be a thoughtful and funny character who takes the issue of human rights seriously. When we were campaigning for the release of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet he accepted one of the t-shirts we were distributing and took it back to Cuba with him and wore it there. A free man living in totalitarian Cuba.

FCF is now in the middle of "Gandhi King Payá Season for Nonviolence: January 30 - July 22" and this effort falls within the 174 days of nonviolence spanning the day Gandhi was killed and the day Payá was killed. We seek positive nonviolent means to effect positive change.

Therefore in that spirit, FCF joins in calling all people of goodwill to use the hashtag #FreeGorki wherever you can, join the facebook group urging his release, to sign the petition calling for Gorki's release, joining in the twitterthon on the morning of his show trial and finally for you to innovate and come up with nonviolent solutions to call for his freedom and personal safety.

Lets take action and see to it that a free man in Cuba remain free to think and say what he wants!

The twisted thinking of the Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the United Nations

"Since [violence against women] is rooted in discrimination, impunity and complacency, we need to change attitudes and behavior – and we need to change laws and make sure they are enforced just like you are doing in Cuba." - Ban Ki-moon, January 27, 2014 in Havana, Cuba

Brutality against Cuban women by the dictatorship dates back from 1959 up until the present day. All they have to be are free thinkers who are "willing to get into hassles to defend what they think."

Yesterday, Yris Perez Aguilera was arrested in the early afternoon while on her way to State Security headquarters to find out the status of her husband. She was beaten up and arrested by government agents. Both Antúnez and Yris have been badly beaten up, and in Yris's case she was not only beaten up but also subjected to sexual threats and harassment by regime officials. When she got home in the evening Yris made the following statement:

"I was arrested with violence. I was beaten, I have my mouth busted. They put a rag bathed in gasoline, with grease in my mouth. They squeezed it into my face. The officer wearing the badge 115025 touched my face, breasts, would get on top of me. They had me handcuffed with my arms behind my back. [...] They were beating on me from near the badly named Ernesto Che Guevara Square all the way to Police Instruction. There I continued demanding my rights. I have cramped hands, I have a lot of pain in the lower abdomen, swollen hands and face because they hit me a lot."

Tomorrow Maria Elena Cruz Varela, an award winning writer, will be in Miami presenting a self-titled book about her life at 7 p.m., in Café Demetrio (300 Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables.

Read more here:
She has been exiled from Cuba for 20 years.

On November 19, 1991 the Cuban poet Mariela Elena Cruz Varela, who peacefully dissented asking for nonviolent change, was assaulted by a mob organized by the dictatorship who tried to force feed the poet her own words. Afterwards she was jailed for two years in prison for making pamphlets calling for political reform. She wrote about the 1991 assault in her book, Dios en las cárceles cubanas (God in the Cuban jails):

They broke my mouth trying to make me swallow the leaflets that members of my group had distributed throughout Havana. Afterwards I spent three days brutally besieged, imprisoned in my own home with my two children, with no water, no electricity, no food, no cigarettes. We heard what the huge speakers never stopped amplifying, allegorical songs to the country, the necessary punishment of traitors, and anyone who wanted to could shout at me, organized, of course, the slogans they pleased: Comrade worm, we are going to execute you by firing squad!
 Decades pass but the aging dictatorship and its practices remain the same. However, the response of the international community goes through all sorts of contortions. Ban Ki-moon's public celebration of how the dictatorship in Cuba treats women is a particularly twisted and lamentable example.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

#FREEGORKI: Cuban Artist Facing Politically Motivated Prosecution Asks for Solidarity

Free Gorki: Needs your solidarity to avoid 10 year prison sentence
A Cuban artist is being subjected to a summary trial because his music is politically charged and highly critical of the government. His name is Gorki Águila. He is a punk rocker, who in the Punk tradition, sings out in defiance of the prevailing power structure. Below is his appeal for solidarity and help. Without you he is facing 10 years in prison. The summary trial is scheduled for February 11, 2014 8:30am at municipal tribunal in Marianao in Havana, Cuba. There is already a petition circulating calling for his freedom. Below is his appeal followed by a translated transcript.

Hello, my name is Gorki Águila I’m the leader of the band Porno para Ricardo, I’m an artist and I’m a musician. And I’m here to denounce this new crime that the government of the Castros would like to do to me.

I’m an opponent to this unjust regime. Now the new thing that they want to do with me is a summary trial. Something that is a tremendous injustice. I don’t know if you know this but summary trials have always been held in totalitarian governments. They are characterized, among other things, by not giving access to the defense to the case files of the prosecution. 

This means that the defense will not be able to prepare itself correctly and that they will be able to do with you whatever they want.

This is why I am appealing to solidarity from all of you so that you will help us once more with this new crime by the Cuban government, before this new injustice, to unite and make this visible in the media. 

To denounce it and to use it to support also other persons, who like me, are engaged in resistance to this regime.

I’m very grateful for the support. And I’m an optimistic guy and I believe that we will succeed if we join together before this situation.

This is not the Cuba of the travelogues and what is highlighted in the mainstream media.  Dissident leaders have been killed under suspicious circumstances. Death threats against human rights defenders and physical beatings are a common practice by the Cuban government. There are new prisoners of conscience in Cuba being recognized by Amnesty International. Women are being regularly assaulted by government agents to stop them from engaging in peaceful protests or assemblies. Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reported and documented that fair trials are non-existent in Cuba. The case of a Spanish national subjected to a trial in Cuba over the Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas affair was straight out of the Stalin show trials of the 1930s. Patterns of repression remain the same or have worsened.

The only protection this musician has is your solidarity. Please sigh the petition and spread the word.