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Thursday, December 17, 2015

Obama administration Cuba policy summed up one year later: #FakeChangeInCuba

 Those who would negotiate with the dictatorship should know that this is what the dictator understands as the "normalization of relations" - Rosa Maria Payá over twitter on December 16, 2015

Picture posted by Rosa Maria along with tweet at the top of the page
 The Free Cuba Foundation is a youth movement founded at Florida International University that has been a steadfast advocate for human rights and freedom in Cuba. Last year we published an open letter titled "Not in Our Name" on December 29, 2015 after a discussion between members. A version of this letter was published in The Huffington Post on January 31, 2015. We stand by our statement and wish to highlight elements that have proven prescient.
"As was the case in 1996, this policy of appeasement had dire consequences for the democratic opposition in Cuba, which suffered several setbacks over the next four years. Prisoner-of-conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike under suspicious circumstances in 2010; Ladies in White founder Laura Inés Pollán Toledo died from a suspicious illness in 2011; and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero died in the summer of 2012, under circumstances that point to a state security killing. Rising violence against opposition activists, including machete attacks, is a new and disturbing phenomenon."
Unfortunately, following this new relationship between the United States and Cuba the pattern of violence against activists was escalated by the Castro regime. Cuban human rights defender, Sirley Ávila León, age 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack in Cuba on May 24, 2015 by Osmany Carrión who had been sent by state security agents. She lost her left hand while raising it to block a machete blow to the head. She suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand and the machete cut through the bone of her right humerus leaving her arm dangling.

Cuban State Security arranged machete atack against dissident on May 24, 2015
 Sirley Ávila León, a one time delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa worked through official channels to represent her community but when they ignored her requests to keep a school open she went to the international media and was later removed from office. She joined the democratic opposition. This led to escalating acts of repression by state security against the 56-year-old mother of two culminating in this attack. She is still in danger and her assailant is free to walk the streets of Cuba.
Augusto Monge (FCF) assaulted by Cuban State Security in Panama
 At the same time in our original statement we expressed the concern that the regime's violence would escalate not only in Cuba but also overseas due to the impunity granted by the Obama administration:
FCF is concerned that releasing the three remaining spies, including Gerardo Hernandez -- who was serving two life sentences, one of them for conspiracy to murder four members of Brothers to the Rescue in exchange for Gross and an unknown Cuban intelligence operative -- may lead to the Castro regime murdering more innocents inside and outside of Cuba. 
 We never thought that one of our founders, Augusto Monge, while attending the Summit of the Americas in Panama on April 8, 2015 would be brutally assaulted by Cuban diplomats and state security agents while laying a wreath for José Martí in a public park in an attack that could have easily ended in fatalities.

The fact that the President of the United States still met with Raul Castro following this and other incidents of violence at the Summit, including acts of repudiation coordinated and carried out by Castro regime officials and agents only substantiates our original concern. This indifference to the regime's violent maneuvers in Panama that included assaults on U.S. citizens sends a dangerous signal to enemies of the United States on the low priority placed on the safety and security of Americans. We did predict that this new policy would embolden the worse elements in the Castro regime:
"[T]he signal sent to the hardline elements within the regime is clear: operating with criminal impunity delivers results. This was the same message sent by President Clinton in 2000."
Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1958 book Stride Toward Freedom observed that "True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice." Unfortunately, the trends in Cuba under the current totalitarian regime is generating huge tensions in the population which is why millions have fled the island over the past 56 years and why after this December 17, 2014 policy announcement by the Obama administration has resulted in a wave of 70,000 Cubans so far in 2015 fleeing to the United States. The lesson is clear, there will be no peace until Cuba is truly free.

Reverend King in the above mentioned book also explained in strategic terms why a resistance movement should and must remain nonviolent in order to achieve liberation:
"A mass movement of a militant quality that  is not at the same time committed to  nonviolence tends to generate conflict, which  in turn breeds anarchy. The support of the  participants and the sympathy of the uncommitted  are both inhibited by the threat that bloodshed  will engulf the community. This reaction in turn  encourages the opposition to threaten and resort to force. When, however, the mass movement  repudiates violence while moving resolutely toward its goal, its opponents are revealed as the instigators and practitioners of violence if it occurs.  Then public support is magnetically attracted to the advocates of nonviolence, while  those who employ violence are literally disarmed  by overwhelming sentiment against their stand."
When elements in the Civil Rights movement abandoned nonviolence in favor the Black Power Movement and the Black Panthers the great victories stopped and the negatives began to pile up. The Free Cuba Foundation has learned this lesson from history. We will continue to resist and fight injustice using all the nonviolent weapons at our disposal.

Over the past year we have marched, fasted, held silent vigils to remember the victims of regime violence, taken part in a caravan, called for a boycott, protested against Hillary Clinton's position on Cuba, challenged hypocritical positions with regards to violence against women, spoke out and refused to go along with the narrative that young people approve this policy protesting the failed Obama-Kerry Cuba policy on the streets of Miami on the day the U.S. embassy in Havana held its flag raising ceremony and shouted down Raul Castro and his entourage at the Cuba Mission in New York City.

We will be taking action again today on the one year anniversary of this disastrous policy announcement in a peaceful protest. Tomorrow we will honor the memory of a great friend not only to Cubans but oppressed peoples around the world: Vaclav Havel. We will be wearing our trousers short to honor his memory on December 18th and invite you to join us in this international action.

Every year since the week following the 1996 shoot-down, FCF members have joined together to hold a silent vigil at Florida International University on February 24th between 3:21pm and 3:27pm at the times both planes were blown up by Castro's MiGs in remembrance of Armando, Carlos, Mario, and Pablo who gave their lives in service to others in a continuing demand for justice. This tradition has been maintained for the past 19 years and next year on Wednesday, February 24, 2015 at 3:21pm we will gather with the families of the four martyrs. This past year Miriam de la Peña addressed the commutation of Gerardo Hernandez's sentence at FIU the day before President Obama arrived on campus to address immigration.

We will continue to demand justice and freedom for Cuba. Today, December 17, 2015 the Free Cuba Foundation is asking friends of freedom to use the hashtag #FakeChangeInCuba in English and #CambioFraudeEnCuba in Spanish to let the world know that no positive change has occurred as a result of the current U.S. policy on Cuba.

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