My title page contents

Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Continuing Call for Justice for Joachim

The Free Cuba Foundation seeks a nonviolent transition to democracy in Cuba. One element towards achieving that end is holding the Cuban government accountable for its actions. The organizations has engaged in campaigns for the victims of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre, the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down and the extrajudicial execution of Joachim Løvschall on March 29, 1997. Unfortunately, since then we have also added new crimes to denounce such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo's death on February 23, 2010 and the murders of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012. 

Today, marks 16 years since Joachim Løvschall was murdered by agents of the Castro regime and justice has still not been done in this matter.

We remember him and his family today on this sad anniversary. Below is the article that first brought his case to our attention:


by Kim Hundevadt
Danish newspaper: Jyllands-Posten
September 28, 1997 (Translation)

Cuba has been recognized as a travel destination, since four of the largest charter companies have gone together by direct flight, to Havana. But several dramatic episodes have created doubt about tourist safety in Cuba. First came the 26 year old Dane who was shot and killed by Cuban soldiers in the street. And the latest, a series of bombing attempts aimed directly at the heart of the popular tourist destination. The travel industry continues to believe however, that Cuba has a future as a vacation paradise.


On March 28, 1997 Joachim Løvschall ate a dinner with white wine in the little restaurant called Aladin, on 21st street in Havana. From there he went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater.

After the performance he went into the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met Caroline and Jouni, two young Swedes, who had become a part of his new circle of friends in Havana. They drank a couple of beers each, but hurried up because Joachim did not like the music.

At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. The Swedes never saw Joachim again.

Four days later, on April 1, they went to the police in order to inform them about the 26 year old missing Danish person. Joachim had not returned back to the private room he had rented from the Garcia Llanes family. Both his Cuban landlord and his two Swedish friends were worried.
On April 4, in the evening, they were called to the legal medical institute in Havana, where they were able to identify the corpse of Joachim Løvschall.

A day and a half later, the Danish authorities and the next of kin, at home in Denmark, were notified.


In the meantime, over the last 6 months, Joachim Løvschall's parents, assisted by their own lawyer and by the Danish Foreign Ministry, have attempted to get an explanation of the circumstances surrounding the killing of the young market economist, who was traveling to Cuba in order to learn Spanish at the university and to experience the country as a tourist.

According to the Cuban inquiry, around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in the nighttime.

At 2:45 he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.

Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down.

The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.

The Cuban authorities estimate that Joachim Løvschall died of blood loss at 3:06.


As not a word was mentioned for more than 8 days, before the Danish Foreign Ministry received word about the killing, the Cubans gave the excuse that Joachim Løvschall did not have any papers on him.

Denmark's ambassador in Mexico, Martin Kofod, traveled immediately to Havana to get clarification of the circumstances.

After 4 days of meetings and investigations, Martin Kofod concluded in a letter that neither barricades nor signs clearly state that the sidewalk in question is a military area. He was astonished as well over the severe methods used by the soldiers and said: "I will reiterate, that to me it is completely incomprehensible that it was not possible to employ methods other than `shoot to kill', in a situation like this," Martin Kofod wrote in his letter.


The Løvschall family's lawyer, Bent Nielsen, said in a Danish newspaper, that as he understands it, one can call this a clear case of execution of Joachim Løvschall.

Bent Nielsen has in his possession a video from the autopsy, and he has gotten a Danish forensic medicine specialist, Dr. Markil Gregersen, to examine it: "It appears obvious and is clearly evident that the soldiers did not attempt to seize and restrain Joachim Løvschall. If so, there would have been signs of a struggle. Nor did they attempt to shoot at his legs. In this case, two bullets were fired directly at the trunk and the head, from a distance of less than two meters (6 feet). Behind the shooting there must lie a reason to kill," said Bent Nielsen.

According to Joachim's two Swedish friends, he had about 80-100 dollars in his wallet, the night he was shot. This money disappeared. Because of this, common robbery is one of several theories.
"On the other hand, the money could have been stolen several days after the killing. I am perhaps more inclined to the opinion that this is a case of poorly trained soldiers who reacted in panic. Also, they most certainly used shooting regulations that are not tolerated in the daytime, out in the open in the street. Therefore, perhaps their superiors should be blamed. Under all circumstances, we must demand that the Cubans carry out a thorough investigation, find out what wrongs were committed, and punish those who are guilty," said Bent Nielsen.

Denmark has officially protested. This protest took place formally in the form of a letter which was sent to the Cuban government, at the beginning of August. "In it we ask the Cubans a series of critical questions. More specifically, we have criticized the lack of barricades at the military area. We have also written, that we find it absolutely incomprehensible that it was necessary to shoot directly at the trunk of the body, to restrain Joachim Løvschall," said Department Director, Nina Jaquet, of the Danish Foreign Ministry.

Simultaneously with the protest to Cuba, the Foreign Ministry also sent a travel directive to the Danish travel industry, regarding travel to Cuba. The directive urges Danish tourists to keep at a safe distance from all military areas, and it underlines that these are not always effectively marked off. "People who do not immediately obey and react correctly to the orders from Cuban military guards ... risk being shot without further warning," the travel directive says.

Nina Jaquet said that in addition to this, the Foreign Ministry presented Joachim Løvschall's case at the EU Community meeting of consulate matters. "We urged the other EU nations to add information to their travel instructions to Cuba. Germany has already done so, and other countries considered this immediately," said Nina Jaquet.


For the Danish travel industry, this case comes at the worst possible moment. Larsen Travel was one of the first agencies to have success in sending charter flights to Cuba. In June, the four largest travel agencies decided to jointly add Cuba as a new destination. Tjaereborg, Spies, Ving and Star Tours together use a DC 10 from Premiair, which flies directly from Copenhagen to Havana every other Friday. This means that Cuba, which for many years was reserved for a small crowd of young and adventurous backpacking tourists, has been recognized as a charter, travel destination resort.

"Interest in Cuba has become very big and trips are sold out a long time in advance," said Administrative Director, H. P. Anderson, of Tjaereborg agency. Other agencies give similar reports. If Cuba can maintain its good reputation, more than 5,000 Danish charter guests will visit the country within the next year.


Joachim Løvschall's family and friends accuse the charter industry of minimizing the new travel directive - out of fear that it will miss out on sales of trips to Cuba. Jesper Sorensen, a former schoolmate and best friend, said that he inquired within a number of travel agencies about the conditions in Cuba. They all replied that there are no problems with safety, and that the Dane who was killed was just a `drunken idiot' who had gone to a military base, in the middle of the night.

Joachim's father, Export Executive Christian Løvschall, is outraged at the manner in which the charter agencies continue to market Cuba as an ideal vacation paradise. "It is irresponsible and shows that it is only what profits, that matters," believes Christian Løvschall. He has received information from various sources, that also a Brazilian, a Bulgarian, a Mexican and the latest, a Colombian tourist, have been killed by Cuban soldiers under similar circumstances.


The travel agencies said that their clients get a thorough orientation when they arrive at their accommodations in Cuba. However, the travel directive is not mentioned when the clients buy their tickets. "Ideally, perhaps we ought to mention it, but in that case we could do nothing but refrain from selling tickets. And that after all is not our business," said Sales Director Stig Elling, from Star Tour. He added that the killing of Joachim Løvschall is a tragic, but isolated incident that could happen anywhere in the world, including Cuba.

"Star Tours clients are very pleased with the new destination to Cuba," said Stig Elling. Both Star Tour and the other charter agencies have increased attention about travel to Cuba nevertheless, after a series of bomb explosions in the heart of Cuban tourist destinations.

On September 4, three and possibly as many as nine hotels and restaurants in Havana were hit by explosions which took the life of a 32 year old Italian tourist. No one has claimed responsibility, but presumably anti-Castro groups based in USA are behind the bombings. The aim is to destroy Cuba's economy by paralyzing its tourism, which has had strong growth over the last couple of years and now brings in income of more than one billion dollars a year.

"Of course, the bombs mean that we follow the situation in Cuba very closely. But we do not think, at the present time, that there are grounds for a drastic reaction that would close the travel destination," said Larsen Rejsers Administrative Director, Jens Veino. "There are explosions all over the world, most recently in Stockholm and Cairo. If we said we will not travel where bombs occur, then gradually we would only have places in Denmark left as destinations. Therefore, we try to avoid reacting before it is necessary," he added.


The probability that people would experience anything dramatic on a vacation to Cuba is very small, maintains Arthur Monsted, whose company Monsted Security Management advises companies and organizations about safety, in connection with travel to foreign countries. "On the other hand, taking into consideration the situation as it is for the time being, one cannot totally ignore the possible risks. There is no doubt about the fact that the bombings in Cuba are directed at high profile tourist destinations," he believes. "For me personally, I would certainly go some other place. When I am on vacation, I generally like to relax and be quite carefree, totally without worries - I would almost say that I like to be careless. A person fortunately can do this in many places. But I do not believe a person can do this in Cuba," said Arthur Monsted.


Terrorism occurs all over the world and is carried out by terrorists. In Cuba, inhumane and inexcusable acts of lawlessness and injustice are carried out, not by terrorists, but by the Cuban government.
Jyllands-Posten - (

Friday, March 15, 2013

Cuba's Black Spring: A Decade Later

Ten years later there is both cause for optimism and profound sorrow. 

On March 18, 2003 the regime in Cuba began a crackdown in which 75 Cuban human rights defenders would be sentenced in show trials of up to 28 years in prison. This combined with simultaneous arrest, summary trial and execution of three young Cuban black men in less than a week who had tried to flee the island became known as The Black Cuban Spring.

Many of the detained were also organizers of the Varela Project, a citizen initiative launched by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas that sought to reform the Cuban system and bring it into line with international human rights norms and under the present laws of the regime was legal. Despite that they were still condemned to prison.

This injustice led to the formation of the Ladies in White and a campaign of international solidarity for these prisoners of conscience never seen before in the Cuban context. 

If not for the Ladies in White, the international campaign, and the death of prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo at least 57 would still be in prison today serving out unjust prison sentences. 

Nevertheless, we must remember that not all of the "Group of the 75" are still with us today, Miguel Valdez Tamayo was harassed by state security into an early grave on January 11, 2007 at age 50. 

Furthermore, that  two of the most high profile advocates for these prisoners of conscience, Ladies in White founding spokeswomen Laura Pollán and the Christian Liberation Movement's Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas both died under suspicious circumstances that demand an international and transparent investigation.

As we approach this dark anniversary we must remember what was accomplished and that much remains to be done in Cuba's long walk to freedom.

Filmmakers Carlos González and Pablo Rodríguez made The Cuban Spring with interviews with dissidents prior to the March 18 crackdown and with their relatives after their arrests and summary trials. It also features the late Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.

Friday, March 8, 2013

International Women's Day in Cuba: Breaking the Silence

Women in Cuba are being badly beaten, mutilated, threatened with rape and extra-judicially executed by a government that some claim is pro-women. How can this be going on? 

Today, International Women's Day is a chance to speak truth to power and in the same manner that a candle can illuminate a dark room. Hopefully, people of good will can bring light to this sad reality.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Here are five that deserve your attention:

Yris Perez Aguilera
 Yris Perez , Damarys Moya ,Yanisbel Valido, Natividad Blanco and Ramona Garcia were beaten and arrested in Santa Clara for marching on March 7, 2013.  Yris Perez Aguilera had been beaten so badly that she lost consciousness and had to be admitted to a hospital. When she regained consciousness despite still being in a bad state she was discharged on orders of State Security. Due to the multiple beatings she has received from government agents Yris Perez Aguilera has developed a cyst on the top of the spine where it meets her head.  She frequently suffers migraines, dizziness spells and other sharp pains due to the repeated attacks which she has not been able to tend to medically. The man who assaulted Yris on March 7, 2013 is Eric Francis Aquino Yera, the same official who, in 2012, threatened to rape the 5 year old daughter of Damaris Moya- Lazara Contreras.

Marina Montes Piñón
 Marina Montes Piñón, a 60 year old woman and long time opposition activist, was beaten with a blunt object by regime agents on December 15, 2012 in Cuba. The end result was three deep wounds in the skull and a hematoma in the right eye. She needed nearly thirty stitches to patch up the wounds.

Berenice Héctor González
 Berenice Héctor González, a 15-year old young woman, suffered a knife attack on November 4, 2012 for supporting the women's human rights movement, The Ladies in White. News of the attack only emerged a month later because State Security had threatened the mother that her daughter would suffer the consequences if she made the assault public.

Damaris Moya Portieles and her daughter
Human rights activist and member of the Rosa Parks Movement for Civil Rights, Damaris Moya Portieles, denounced on  May 3rd 2012 that in addition to having been the victim of a violent arrest along with other dissidents the previous night, State Security and political police agents threatened to rape her 5 year old daughter. According to Portieles, the main culprit of this threat was the State Security agent Eric Francis Aquino Yera.

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo
 Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, one of the founders of the Ladies in White in March of 2003 and its chief spokeswoman was widely admired inside of Cuba and internationally. She fell suddenly ill and died within a week on October 14, 2011 in a manner that a Cuban medical doctor described as "painful, tragic and unnecessary." This was just days after the Ladies in White declared themselves a human rights organization dedicated to the freedom of all political prisoners, not just their loved ones.

Women are dying in Cuba for defending their fundamental human rights using nonviolent means.  Will you speak out for them?