"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|
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.