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Monday, December 29, 2014

To the United States government and the Castro regime we say, not in our name!

Statement by the Free Cuba Foundation in response to changes in U.S. - Cuba relations 

Silent vigil for Brothers to the Rescue shoot down victims

 On 17 December 2014, President Barack Obama announced a change in U.S. Cuba policy to loosen travel and economic policies and re-establish diplomatic relations. The Free Cuba Foundation believes that if the President’s objective is improved human rights and freedom for Cubans on the island, these changes reflect an alarming level of naivety and ignorance on the subject and outline a path that can actually harm the Cuban pro-democracy movement and its march towards freedom For this reason, FCF feels the need to make its position clear in the following statement.

The Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) was founded as a youth movement in 1993. Throughout its history, FCF has been a steadfast and independent voice in favor of nonviolent resistance to injustice and tyranny. We have consistently spoken up for victims of the dictatorship demanding justice while advocating freedom and national reconciliation. Freedom will emerge within Cuba from the bottom up not from initiatives by the dictatorship or the United States that until now have only served to legitimize a brutal totalitarian dictatorship. Our movement follows the nonviolent path of Cuba’s internal democratic opposition in embracing the principles of strategic nonviolence. We have demonstrated our commitment to non-violence through our support of Concilio Cubano, the Varela Project and other opposition initiatives for nonviolent change that have existed in a hostile national and international environment. FCF will continue to pursue the goal of the non-violent opposition.

We agree with President Obama on one general observation from his December 17 statement, that one cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Unfortunately the efforts of the Clinton Administration to engage the Castro dictatorship as well as loosen sanctions before and after 1996 went unmentioned in President Obama’s comments. President Clinton began joint military exercises with the Castro regime in 1994 in pursuit of normalized relations. The shoot down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes on February 24, 1996 by Castro regime MiGs which killed Armando Alejandre Jr. (age 45), Carlos Alberto Costa (age 29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (age 24), and Pablo Morales (age 29) led to the passage and signing of The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act by Congress as an alternative to military action in an election year. 

Murdered by Castro regime on February  24, 1996
 The purpose of the attack however was not to sabotage U.S.-Cuba relations, but to cover up a massive crackdown underway in Cuba at the time to crush a national gathering called Concilio Cubano and thereby crush the aspirations of Cuban democrats in the island to peacefully gather and discuss the future of their country Despite this act of state terrorism against Americans, President Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and loosened sanctions that opened cash and carry exports from American corporations and the Castro regime later that same year. This change in policy turned the United States into one of the top five trading partners of the Castro regime.

Economic sanctions were never designed to overthrow the dictatorship but were part of a policy of containment to prevent the spread of its totalitarian model. The rise of Hugo Chavez and the spread of Cuban influence in Venezuela began during Bill Clinton’s presidency and are now harming the entire region undermining the democratic gains of the 1980s and early 1990s. Despite this disaster the Obama Administration began in 2009 to loosen sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship. The Castro regime’s response was to take Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen hostage. The Obama administration remained very low key about Gross’s arrest, and it was 25 days before U.S. diplomats even saw this jailed American. FCF believes that this lack of concern sent a message to the dictatorship that they could continue to arbitrarily detain Gross and use him as a bargaining chip in their goals to secure the release of five Cuban spies captured in 1998. These five had not only engaged in spying on US military facilities but planned terrorist acts on U.S. soil and were criminally involved in the February 24, 1996 shoot down.

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.

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 also know as does the regime that due to short term economic interests that economic engagement with the dictatorship will not be seriously impacted by whatever new atrocities are committed. Additionally, the hostage demand having been met by the United States government also sets a dangerous precedent for Americans traveling abroad. Add to this the normalization of diplomatic relations and the further loosening of sanctions and the 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.

FCF and its members are disturbed by the President’s statement on December 19, 2014 that the 1996 shoot down was not a premeditated move by Castro but a “tragic circumstance." This statement was deficient on two basic points. First of all, two planes were shot down over international airspace not one as he stated in the press conference. More importantly, the president’s statement ignored both documented evidence as well as court decisions and investigations by international human rights bodies that have concluded that the attack was indeed a premeditated extrajudicial execution as demonstrated by the points below:

1) Radio communications between the MiG29 and the military base clearly show that the fighter planes were sent out before the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft arrived at the 24th parallel level, that they were searching for a specific target, and that they even decided not to attempt any warning maneuvers to make the shoot down easier for the Cuban MiG pilots. 
2) The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights’ conclusion stated the following:
“From the circumstances surrounding the events of 24 February 1996, from the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of lethal force applied to the civilian aircraft, from the intensity of that force, and from the way in which the authorities at the Havana military control tower congratulated the MiG-29 pilots after they had carried out their orders, the Commission finds sufficient evidence that Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre were arbitrarily or extrajudicially executed at the hands of agents of the Cuban State. Consequently, the Cuban State is responsible for violating the right to life, as enshrined in Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.”
3) U.S. courts have also found the Castro regime guilty of premeditation in this shoot down:
A.) U.S. District Judge James Lawrence King found Cuba guilty in civil court of planning the shoot down before the actual attack, and noted that there had been ample time to issue warnings to the Brothers to the Rescue aircraft if these had been needed.
B.) A jury in criminal court presided by U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard found Miami-based Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez guilty of conspiracy to commit murder because of his role in providing information to the Cuban government on the flight plans of Brothers to the Rescue.
C.) On August 21, 2003 a U.S. grand jury indicted the two fighter pilots and their commanding general on murder charges for the 1996 shoot down.
4) A Cuban pilot saw Cuban MiGs rehearsing the shoot down six days before.
 General Ruben Martinez Puente, Francisco Perez-Perez, Lorenzo Alberto Perez Perez who were indicted on four counts of murder, two counts of destruction of aircraft and one count of conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals in August of 2003 and Juan Pablo Roque indicted in May 1999 as a foreign agent (although he played a role in the shootdown) have yet to be pursued to the full extent of the law.

Silent vigil for Brothers to the Rescue shoot down victims
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 18 years and next year on Tuesday, February 24, 2015 at 3:21pm we will gather with the families of the four martyrs.

Mohandas Gandhi once observed that "Impure means lead to impure ends" and unfortunately the world may now see this theorem put into practice once again in the relations between Cuba and the United States. The day after President Obama made his statement reports emerged that Cuba’s Coast Guard had rammed and sunk a boat carrying 32 Cuban refugees. This atrocity was disturbingly reminiscent of a similar incident when, on July 13, 1994, under Bill Clinton’s watch, Cuban agents murdered 37 Cuban men, women and children attempting to escape in a tugboat.

We the present and former members of the Free Cuba Foundation say to the United States government and the Castro regime that the fruits that have emerged thus far from these negotiations point to the impure means upon which they were founded and will only lead to more grief. Therefore, with great respect we say, not in our name!

Signed by:

Brian Alonso
Grace Cuelez Droblas
Oscar Grau 
Yosvani Oliva Iglesias 
Robert Linares
Neri Ann Martinez 
Augusto Monge
Susana Navajas
Mirka Pena
Cindy Rodriguez
Raisa Romaelle
Pedro M. Ross
Juan Carlos Sanchez
Harold Alexander Silva
John Suarez
César Vásquez

(E-mail if you are a student or University alumnus and would like to have your name added)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Three generations of the Free Cuba Foundation gathered today at Jose Marti Park for Freedom Protest

Robert Linares (FCF 2000) protesting Obama actions on Cuba
 Free Cuba Foundation is a student movement that was founded in August of 1993 and has been around for twenty years with five generations of activists passing through every four years or so. Today at a rally in Miami at Jose Marti Park activists from 1993, 1997 and 2013 gathered together to protest the decision of the Obama Administration to free three spies, including Gerardo Hernandez, found guilty of conspiracy to commit murder in the untimely deaths of Carlos Costa, Armando Alejandre, Jr., Mario de la Peña, and Pablo Morales. Every year since that crime was committed we have gathered on February 24 at 3:21pm to 3:27pm the time the two planes were shot down over international airspace in a silent demand for justice. Sadly, this year will also had to add the names of Venezuelan students murdered by Maduro's agents under the tutelage of Castro's state security agents.

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Brian Alonso (FCF 2013) was interviewed by  Local and spoke out against the new policy. Also in attendance was founding member and president of the organization Augusto Monge (FCF 1993) and Robert Linares (FCF 1997) who was photographed on the cover of a BBC report announcing today's protest. Below are excerpts taken from the protest of the different persons who addressed the crowd.

This movement has always been focused on the defense of human rights and advocating and setting the example taking nonviolent action in the face of injustice.

We have also continued to demand justice for the victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo"tugboat massacre in which 37 men, women and children were killed, by holding a silent vigil every year on that day. Today we were horrified to learn that yesterday news arrived that the Castro regime's coast guard may have sunk a boat carrying 32 Cubans. We are trying to ascertain additional information at this hour. 

Robert Linares (on the left) holding torch in 1997

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Thank you.

"I really do inhabit a system in which words are capable of shaking the entire structure of government, where words can prove mightier than ten military divisions." - Vaclav Havel, October 1989, accepting a peace prize 

Oppressed and captive peoples around the world owe the peoples of Eastern Europe a big thank you for their example and constant solidarity over the past 25 years. Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution that brought freedom to Czechoslovakia. Below are sounds and images from those wonderful days. Our prayers go out to all the freedom activists live Vaclav Havel who are no longer physically with us.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Latin America 2014: Students Targeted in Mexico and Venezuela

Why are they murdering the youth of Latin America?

Mexican officials say that 43 students were murdered.
Martin Luther King Jr. once observed that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere and the situation today in Latin America underscores that statement and elevates it into a theorem. Twenty years ago the world ignored the massacre of 37 Cubans by government officials for the "crime" of fleeing the country in search of a better life. The majority of the victims were young people and the world for the most part remained silent.

37 murdered by Cuban government agents in 1994 of which 22 were under 30
Now in 2014 first in Venezuela in February and now in Mexico in September students have been targeted by government officials in coordination with their civilian thugs and murdered.

Youth murdered in Venezuela since February 2014 allegedly by government agents
 This leads to an obvious question. What can be done to stop this disturbing trend across Latin America?

There are at least three things that can and must be done to take action: 1) Demonstrate solidarity with the victims. 2) Denounce the crimes and call on the government authorities to hold the killers accountable and 3) Let others know what happened and what they can do. 

Join Amnesty International's campaign for the 43
Right now the situation in Mexico demands concrete attention and actions in the hopes that a resolution can quickly be reached such as:
  • Over social media there are numerous opportunities to demonstrate one's solidarity using hash tags such as: and #GlobalActionForAyotzinapa
  • In Miami on November 20, 2014 at the Mexican Consulate in downtown ( 1399 SW 1st Avenue Miami, FL 33130) join with Mexican activists in a nonviolent protest denouncing the crime while demanding justice and the return of the 43 missing students to their loved ones. Other protests are planned in Santa Ana, California; Dallas, Texas and elsewhere.
  • Signing an online letter from Amnesty International calling on the Mexican government to bring all responsible to justice, acknowledge that this is not an isolated case, and for the government to uphold 2012 commitment to eradicate torture and ill treatment of all detainees.
  • Writing opeds, letters to the editor, spreading the word over social media on the internet in order that others may take concrete action on behalf of these 43 students.
The human rights situation around the world has been deteriorating for the past decade and remaining passive before this reality is leading to an unacceptable body count and needs to be confronted. Time to take a stand now.

We stand in solidarity with people of Mexico demanding answers about the 43 "disappeared" students.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Czech NGO People in Need reports on police violence in Cuba

(**Leer Versión En Español Abajo**)

Police violence in Cuba

When someone is arrested in Cuba for exercising their civil rights, this immediately means that they can face any number of risks. This goes beyond simply being unjustly deprived of freedom for hours, days, or being sentenced to years behind bars, but also includes being seriously injured. These violations can also take place while the person is being detained, where such abuses can be carried out easier since there is less public exposure than at the moment of the arrest.

The violence against political detainees takes many forms. Verbal abuse, intimidation, death threats, and threats against the family are meant to weaken and distress individuals psychologically and as a result encourage the person to quit their dissident activities. As to the physical abuse, the level of violence meted out by the police sometimes causes injuries that require hospitalization
Here are a few cases illustrating these abuses. As you may see, the victims belong to various opposition movements but also to the civil society:

Jorge Luis Claro Galvan. On May 23, 2014, the victim was resting on the porch of his house when he was arrested by the police. They beat him severely, causing a head wound that left him traumatized and because of this, a few days later, he became dizzy in the prison restroom, fell and got an additional head injury that required stitches. The victim was put on trial before a court without any proof that he had committed the crime of burglary. The police had linked him to a robbery that supposedly took place while he was traveling in a rental car. His family says this is just the consequence of frequent threats from the state authorities for being a member of the Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación.

Roberto Rodriguez Cardona, member of Partido Republicano de Cuba, was heading to the center of the city of Bayamo on January 25th 2014, alongside guests to celebrate his daughter’s birthday when he was violently arrested by the combined forces of the Police and agents of the State Security and rushed to the police station. They continued to beat him so aggressively that they dislocated his shoulder, smashed his forehead against a wall and caused injuries inside and outside his mouth. He was detained until Monday 27th for two days, with no medical assistance. He was released without charges.

Yriades Hernández Aguilera, from Union Patriótica de Cuba, was documenting an eviction case when agents of the Political Police came around and started beating him. Afterwards, they took him in a patrol car to the outskirts of the town and released him. He remained there for 3 hours as the blows he had received had caused synovial fluid to leak from his left knee and thus made it impossible for him to use his left leg. Yriades has been constantly threatened with death if he continues with his dissident activity.

Cleider Claro Rosa was beaten unconscious by prison officials in Guantanamo. The incident occurred on Nov. 23, 2013 when he was denied the monthly visit from his family. The detainee expressed his disagreement and he was subsequently hit by the head of the prison and other officials for protesting. He lost consciousness, fell to the ground and was dragged to the punishment cell where he remained for six days. Cleider Claro Rosa doesn’t belong to any party of the opposition movement.

In order to prevent abuses in the future the Czech NGO People in Need would like to call on Cuban government to start implementing reforms of it security apparatus. It must be reformed in such a way that human rights such as the right not to be a victim of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, doesn’t happen in Cuba. The first step for Cuban government would be for security forces to undergo training in “human rights” following the guidelines and manuals developed by the United Nation’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights or other internationally respected entity.

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy - rewriting Cuba,


Violencia policial en Cuba

Cuando alguien es arrestado en Cuba, se enfrenta inevitablemente a un gran número de riesgos. No sólo puede verse privado de la libertad ilegalmente durante algunas horas o días, o ser condenado a pasar algunos años tras las rejas, sino que puede ver su integridad física gravemente atentada.  Los golpes y vejaciones por parte de los agentes de la policía pueden producirse en la calle o, más comúnmente, mientras la persona está detenida, cuando los abusos pueden llevarse a cabo con más facilidad y total impunidad, lejos de la exposición pública de las detenciones en plena calle.

 La violencia contra los detenidos políticos puede tomar dos formas: verbal, que consiste en insultos, intimidación y/o amenazas (las más comunes de muerte o dirigidas a algún miembro de la familia); o física, con lesiones que incluso algunas veces requieren hospitalización. El objetivo de ambos tipos de violencia es debilitar a los individuos psicológicamente y presionarlos para que abandonen sus actividades en la disidencia.

A continuación, a modo de ejemplo, algunos casos que ilustran estos abusos.  Cabe destacar que las víctimas no sólo son opositores sino, a veces, ciudadanos comunes no involucrados en actividades disidentes.

Jorge Luis Claro Galván. El 23 de mayo de 2014, Jorge Luis estaba descansando en el porche de su casa cuando fue detenido por la policía. Le golpearon intensamente, causándole un traumatismo cráneo encefálico  que le provocó un vértigo días después, en los aseos de la prisión. Se cayó al suelo y se hizo una brecha que requirió varios puntos de sutura. Jorge Luis fue posteriormente llevado a juicio acusado de un delito de robo del cual no existía ninguna prueba. Su familia sostiene que es sólo el resultado de frecuentes amenazas por parte de  las autoridades estatales por ser miembro del Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación.

Roberto Rodríguez Cardona, miembro del Partido Republicano de Cuba, se dirigía al centro de la ciudad de Bayamo para celebrar el cumpleaños de su hija, el 25 de enero de 2014, junto a sus invitados, cuando fue detenido violentamente por las fuerzas combinadas de la Policía y agentes de la Seguridad del Estado. Le dislocaron el hombro, le golpearon la frente contra una pared y le causaron lesiones dentro y fuera de la boca. Estuvo detenido durante dos días sin asistencia médica. El día 27 del mismo mes fue puesto en libertad sin cargos.

Yriades Hernández Aguilera, de la Unión Patriótica de Cuba, estaba documentando un caso de desalojo cuando los agentes de la Policía Política le rodearon y comenzaron a golpearle. Después se lo llevaron en un coche patrulla a las afueras de la ciudad y allí  lo liberaron. Permaneció allí durante 3 horas; los golpes le habían provocado un derrame de líquido sinovial en la rodilla izquierda y no podía andar. Yriades ha sido amenazado de muerte en múltiples ocasiones por su actividad  en la disidencia.

Cleider Claro Rosa fue golpeado hasta quedar inconsciente por funcionarios de la prisión de Guantánamo. El incidente ocurrió el 23 de noviembre 2013, cuando se le negó la visita mensual de su familia. El detenido manifestó su desacuerdo y posteriormente fue golpeado por el jefe de la prisión y otros funcionarios por protestar. Perdió el conocimiento, cayó al suelo y fue arrastrado a la celda de castigo donde permaneció durante seis días. Cleider Claro Rosa no pertenece a ningún partido de la oposición.

Con el fin de evitar estos abusos en el futuro, la ONG checa People in Need quiere hacer un llamamiento al gobierno cubano pidiéndole que realice una reforma en su aparato de seguridad policial, de modo que los derechos humanos sean respetados durante las detenciones. El gobierno debería, en primer lugar, someter a las fuerzas de seguridad a una formación sobre derechos humanos siguiendo las directrices y manuales desarrollados por la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos o de otra entidad de prestigio internacional.

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy - rewriting Cuba,

Friday, November 7, 2014

Sonia Garro, her husband and neighbor still jailed since March 18, 2012 and trial postponed again

“ The Cuban authorities’ continual postponing of the trial without explanation raises concerns that the charges against the three may be politically motivated. They should now be released immediately and be allowed to await their trial outside of prison.   ” James Burke, Caribbean Researcher at Amnesty International 11/7/14

Sonia Garro Alfonso

7 November 2014

Cuba: Detainees left in limbo as trial postponed yet again

 by Amnesty International

The trial of three people arrested in Cuba during a government crackdown on peaceful protests has been postponed for a fourth time in two and a half years, leaving the detainees in an unfair legal limbo, said Amnesty International today. 

Sonia Garro Alfonso, who is a member of the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) a protest group, her husband Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and their neighbour Eugenio Hernández Hernández have been in pre-trial detention since 18 March 2012. Their trial was finally due to start this morning but was once again postponed without explanation. No new trial date has been set.

“The Cuban authorities’ continual postponing of the trial without explanation raises concerns that the charges against the three may be politically motivated. They should now be released immediately and be allowed to await their trial outside of prison,” said James Burke, Caribbean Researcher, Amnesty International.

Amnesty International had been calling for the trial to go ahead in accordance with international standards, including the right of the accused to call defence witnesses and to challenge the evidence against them.

All three people were arrested on 18 March 2012 during a demonstration by a group of government supporters that had gathered in front of Sonia Garro Alfonso and Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González’s house. The government supporters, helped by state security officials, were attempting to prevent the couple from participating in in events to commemorate the anniversary of the crackdown on dissidence which started on 18 March 2003 and led to the imprisonment of 75 peaceful activists.

They were charged by the public prosecutor in September 2013 with public disorder (desórdenes públicos) and attempted murder (asesinato en grado de tentativa). Sonia Garro Alfonso faces the additional charge of using violence or intimidation against a state official (atentado). Their trial has been postponed previously on three occasions, in November 2013, June 2014 and October 2014, with no reason ever given for each postponement.

This morning across Cuba, members of the Ladies in White have been peacefully demonstrating in front of their local courts on behalf of Sonia Garro Alfonso, Ramón Alejandro Muñoz González and Eugenio Hernández Hernández. There have been reports of arrests of members in the city of Matanzas and the town of Palma Soriano in the province of Santiago de Cuba. There were also reports yesterday that officials from the Department of State Security summoned a number of members of the Ladies in White or visited their homes in order to threaten them not to attend demonstrations today.

Amnesty International calls on the authorities to cease their continual harassment and arbitrary detention of the Ladies in White and allow them to carry out their peaceful activities without fear of reprisals.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Ángel Carromero speaks to the Cuban exile community about what happened on July 22, 2012

On the third anniversary of Laura Inés Pollán Toledo's untimely death, Ángel Carromero speaks to the Cuban exile community about what happened on July 22, 2012

Ángel Francisco Carromero Barrios presented his book tonight (October 14, 2014) on the July 22, 2012 attack that killed Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante. 

He was introduced at the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies by Ofelia Acevedo and Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo to packed room of primarily Cuban exiles.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

No More Che Day Student Initiative

Cubans suffer the weight of the myth created by the mega-operation of intelligence of exportation called Cuban Revolution, that has turned murderers like Che Guevara into global youth icons. - Rosa María Payá Acevedo  Iberoamerican Vanguard Summit Octuber 14, 2013.

No More Che Day 2014
October 9th marks the day in 1967 when an icon of hatred and political intolerance met his end violently in the jungles of Bolivia. It is easy to understand why the dictatorship in Cuba celebrates his memory and death but it is not so easy to understand why UNESCO does. The Argentine Maoist's legacy is a lamentable one that spread death and repression across the Americas and Africa:
Che Guevara was an admirer of Mao Zedong and his formulation of guerrilla 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 guerrilla warfare, based on his experiences led to bloodbaths in Argentina, Chile, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Chiapas, Congo, Angola and decades of military dictatorship and political violence. Nevertheless it could have been worse. Another disciple of Mao Zedong who adapted his theories was Pol Pot, who unlike Che achieved power in 1975 after a guerrilla struggle in Cambodia. He carried out a radical revolution modeled after Mao and ended by killing 25% of the entire population of his country: Cambodia.
In 2010 the Free Cuba Foundation had as a guest speaker Félix Ismael Rodríguez, the CIA agent responsible for capturing Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Bolivia in 1967. This year we will distribute posters and fliers exposing the facts about Ernesto "Che" Guevara as part of No More Che Day organized by the Young America's Foundation that exposes who he was: 
"Che Guevara was an international terrorist and mass murderer. During his vicious campaigns to impose Communism on countries throughout Latin America, Che Guevara trained and motivated the Castro regime's firing squads that executed thousands of men, women, and children. "
We will make the case for boycotting those who use Che as an "icon" of rebellion at the same time we'll advocate rejecting the Che icon in favor of embracing more authentic figures of resistance such as Mohandas Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr. and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.

Gandhi, King and Payá: Three Resistance Icons Worth Honoring

Thursday, October 2, 2014

International Day of Nonviolence, Gandhi and the Umbrella Revolution in Hong Kong

"An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so. Now the law of nonviolence says that violence should be resisted not by counter-violence but by nonviolence. This I do by breaking the law and by peacefully submitting to arrest and imprisonment." - Mohandas Gandhi
Logo by Siuham Tse
Yesterday, members of the Florida International University community wore yellow and some carried an umbrella in solidarity with protesters in Hong Kong. The Umbrella Movement is nonviolent in the tradition of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi. Occupy Central with Love and Peace on September 30, 2014 issued the following call to action:
 The courage, determination, peacefulness and orderliness shown by the spontaneous democratic occupy movement in Hong Kong in the past few days, have written a glorious page in the development of Hong Kong’s democracy. The Hong Kong people’s demand for Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying to step down and the National People’s Congress Standing Committee (NPCSC) to withdraw its framework for fake democracy is loud and clear. In order to consolidate the results we have achieved, the students and Occupy Central With Love and Peace (OCLP) urges all Hong Kong people to join us in guarding the main thoroughfares of our major sites of democracy: Admiralty, Causeway Bay and Mong Kok.
Incidentally, today is the International Day of Nonviolence, recognized as such by the United Nations in honor of Mohandas Gandhi's birthday on October 2, 1869.

Fairy sure its a montage of Gandhi with an umbrella
 The spiritual legacy of Bapu seen on the streets of Hong Kong 145 years after his birth demonstrates the continued relevance of nonviolence and hope for humanity at such a difficult time.

Showing solidarity with the Umbrella Movement at FIU
 Last  Friday, the world renown Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei opened an exhibition with seven installations called @Large Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz exploring human rights, freedom of expression and the plight of victims of repression. Among the 176 individuals he profiled in the installation Trace there is a Cuban prisoner of conscience whose name is Iván Fernández Depestre.

This should be a reminder to all people of good will that we are in this together. Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. on April 16, 1963 explained it powerfully in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail:
Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial "outside agitator" idea.
 The people of Hong Kong are risking all for their freedom and need your solidarity. Please do what you can and take action. Below is a life feed from Occupy Central in Hong Kong, China.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

25 years after the Berlin Wall was torn down Juan Carlos González Leiva pays homage to the victims

"It's always the small people who change things. It's never the politicians or the big guys. I mean, who pulled down the Berlin wall? It was all the people in the streets. The specialists didn't have a clue the day before." - Luc Besson
Juan Carlos González Leiva at the Berlin Wall in September 2014
In West Germany the Berlin Wall was known as the "death strip." Estimates place the total number of Germans killed at greater than 200. In Eastern Germany the communist authorities called it the "Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart" (German: Antifaschistischer Schutzwall). The Wall began to be built by the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) on August 13, 1961 and was finally torn down on November 9, 1989.

Standing at The Berlin Wall Memorial before a huge remnant of the Wall along with a memorial to the victims listening to their names and how they died is a powerful experience and highly recommended. Juan Carlos González Leiva, a Cuban human rights defender, found the experience profoundly moving. More information on the Berlin Wall is available here.

Juan Carlos González Leiva at memorial for victims killed trying to cross the Wall

Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Legacy of Jose Antonio Echeverria discussed at Florida International University

For more information visit the Jose Antonio Echeverria Foundation and read a reflection on the legacy of "13 de Marzo."

 "The Urban Insurrection Against Batista: The Life and Times of Jose Antonio Echeverria" at Florida International University was held on August 27, 2014 at 7:30PM in Graham Center 150 on the South Campus located on Southwest Eighth Street. Present among the scholars and academics was Lucy Echeverría, the sister of Jose Antonio Echeverria.

 It was a symposium commemorating José Antonio Echeverría's life and role in 1950s Cuba in the struggle against Fulgencio Batista. Lucy Echeverría on her brother's leadership at the University of Havana: "My brother held the presidency of the Federation of University Students (FEU) four times elected by overwhelmingly majorities. There the troubles began with Castro. As he never became president, he always kept that inside." Also of interest for scholars was how the Echeverria family rejected the Castro regime's totalitarian turn to dictatorship and how they ended up in exile by 1961.

According to Lucy, objects found in the Birthplace Museum of  José Antonio Echeverría in Cárdenas do not belong to her brother and in a televised tribute done in Cuba, the supposed parents of the martyred leaders were presented, while the real ones were already exiled in the United States.

José Antonio Echeverría addressing students

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Under Constant Threat: Antúnez and Yris

On August 20, 2014 Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" made public an open letter to Raul Castro in which he denounced fraudulent reforms, and the murders of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero in Cuba and declared that national reconciliation necessitates justice, freedom and democracy. In the video below Antúnez read aloud the letter. Further down below we reproduce a letter sent to use by the Czech NGO People in Need that lays out how Antúnez and his wife Yris are under constant threat.


From the Czech NGO, People in Need:

Dear Journalist,

Officially there is no use of torture or human rights abuses against political dissidents in Cuba. However, People in Need would like to draw your attention to the case of Jorge Luis García Pérez known as Antúnez, a Cuban dissident, who has been repeatedly arrested, beaten, had his house vandalized and has been under house arrest.

Under constant threat

Antúnez, a well-known Cuban activist, was imprisoned for 17 years from 1990 to 2007. His offense? Screaming out during a demonstration in the 90s that communism was a mistake and that Cuba was a dystopia.  

Jorge Luis García Pérez, who is better known as Antúnez and his wife Yris Perez Aguilera, were arrested last June, this time over fears that the dissident might represent a threat to the normalization of relations between Cuba and the USA. He was caught disseminating leaflets against this normalization in his home town of Placetas. The cause may have also been his repeated trips to Europe and the US, when he took the opportunity to speak about the current realities of the dissidents in Cuba.

During his last arrest in June, Antúnez claimed he was severely beaten and tortured. He admitted that he had never received such violent treatment on any of the other occasions when he was arrested. They were both released, but were immediately put under arrest again the next day. His wife and he have been unfairly arrested; extensively interrogated while in custody and their house was vandalized by the police forces.

Since then, due to international pressure, he was released from house arrest and the charges with “public disorder” against him were dropped, only to be restored shortly after: Antúnez is under house arrest again and will face charges in a coming trial.

Recently in Miami, his wife, Yris Pérez Aguilera has spoken out loud about the repression under which the dissidents find themselves on a daily basis. She also stressed the harsh reality that once back in Cuba, she will face again repression for the truths she had spoken in the USA.

We are unfortunately witnessing a rise in the wave of repression by the Cuban government dissidents, such as Antúnez and his wife, and independent journalists, like Roberto de Jesus Guerra, Martha Beatriz Roque, have been arrested or beaten by the State Police.

Antúnez is a classic example of enduring courage and resilience:

After being discriminated against by the regime’s policy towards minorities, which prevented him from growing professionally and getting the education he wanted, and being inspired by the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, he joined the Cuban opposition in the 90s. He founded Frente Nacional de Resistencia Civica Orlando Zapata Tamayo in memory of the dissident who died during a hunger strike in 2010. 

During his long years in prison, Antúnez formed a new movement to support his fellow political prisoners, called Pedro Luis Boitel after the political prisoner who died of a hunger strike in 1972. Throughout his years of imprisonment he remained firm on his positions - he refused to wear a prisoner’s uniform or to recant his ideas. Due to his defiance of the regime’s authority on several occasions, his five year sentence was extended to seventeen years.

His wife, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera has also founded a movement, The Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, which has strongly advocated for an end to repression towards peaceful human rights defenders. She has been repeatedly threatened with death and rape, beaten and jailed.

In honor of Antúnez’s and Yris Perez’s continued fight for the respect of human rights and basic freedoms in Cuba, in spite of being well aware of the risks involved, People in Need is appealing to you to share their story and make sure that their worrying situation is known.

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy - rewriting Cuba,


Estimado periodista,

Oficialmente no hay uso de  tortura o abusos de derechos humanos contra los disidentes políticos en Cuba. Sin embargo, a People in Need le gustaría llamar su atención sobre el caso de Jorge Luis García Pérez, conocido como Antúnez, un disidente cubano, que ha sido detenido en varias ocasiones, golpeado, le han vandalisado su casa y ha estado bajo arresto domiciliario.

Bajo amenaza constante

Antunez, un conocido activista cubano, fue encarcelado durante 17 años entre 1990 y 2007. ¿Su delito? Haber gritado durante una manifestación en los años 90 que el comunismo era un error y que Cuba era una distopía. 

Jorge Luis García Pérez, más conocido como Antúnez y su esposa, Yris Pérez Aguilera, fueron detenidos el   pasado junio, esta vez por temor a que el disidente pudiese representar una amenaza para la normalización de las relaciones entre Cuba y EE.UU. Fue capturado por distribuir panfletos contra esta normalización de las relaciones en su ciudad natal, Placetas. La motivación tras su detención podría encontrarse en sus repetidos viajes a Europa y los EE.UU., en donde tuvo la oportunidad de hablar sobre la realidad actual de los disidentes en Cuba. 

Durante su última detención, en el mes de junio, Antúnez declaró haber sido golpeado y maltratado. Afirmó no haber recibido nunca un trato tan violento durante cualquiera de las otras ocasiones en que fue detenido. Ambos  fueron liberados, pero de nuevo puestos bajo arresto al día siguiente. Su esposa y él han sido detenidos injustamente y exhaustivamente interrogados durante su detención y su casa ha sido vandalizada por las fuerzas policiales.

Desde entonces, debido a la presión internacional, ha sido liberado de su arresto domiciliario y los cargos por "desorden público" en su contra han sido retirados. Aunque sólo para restaurarlos poco después: Antunez se encuentra de nuevo bajo arresto domiciliario y deberá someterse a juicio.
Recientemente en Miami, su esposa, Yris Pérez Aguilera, ha hablado en voz alta sobre la represión a las que los disidentes se ven sometidos a diario. También destacó la dura realidad de que, una vez de regreso a Cuba, se enfrentará una vez más a la represión debido a las declaraciones hechas durante su viaje por los EE.UU.

Por desgracia estamos asistiendo a un aumento de la represión por parte del Gobierno Cubano contra los disidentes, como Antúnez y su esposa, y los periodistas independientes, como Roberto de Jesús Guerra y Martha Beatriz Roque, que han sido detenidos o golpeados por la Policía Estatal. 

Antunez es un ejemplo clásico de perdurable valor y resistencia:

Después de ser discriminado por la política del régimen hacia las minorías, lo que le impidió crecer profesionalmente y conseguir la educación que él anhelaba, se unió inspirado en la caída del comunismo en Europa del Este a la oposición cubana en los años 90. Fundó el Frente Nacional de Resistencia Cívica Orlando Zapata Tamayo en la memoria del disidente que murió durante una huelga de hambre en 2010. 

Durante sus largos años de prisión, Antunez formó un nuevo movimiento para apoyar a los presos políticos, llamado Pedro Luis Boitel en memoria de este preso político que murió a causa de una huelga de hambre en 1972. A lo largo de sus años de prisión se mantuvo firme en sus posiciones - se negó a llevar un uniforme de prisionero o a renunciar a sus convicciones. Debido a su constante desafío a las autoridades del Régimen, su condena de cinco años se amplió a diecisiete años. 

Su esposa, Yris Tamara Pérez Aguilera, también ha fundado un movimiento, el Movimiento Feminista Rosa Parks para los Derechos Civiles, que aboga por el fin de la represión contra los defensores pacíficos de los derechos humanos. Ella ha recibido repetidas amenazas de muerte y violación, golpizas y ha sido varias encarcelada varias veces.

En honor a la lucha continua de Antunez e Yris Pérez por el respeto a los derechos humanos y las libertades fundamentales en Cuba, a pesar de ser conscientes de los riesgos involucrados, desde People in Need apelamos a vosotros para que compartáis su historia. Queremos asegurarnos de que su situación se conozca y la represión contra ellos cese.

Cuban Team / Equipo de Cuba
People in Need - Human Rights and Democracy - rewriting Cuba,
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