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Friday, January 31, 2014

Christian Liberation Movement Letter to the European Union: A Defining Moment

Honorable Foreign Ministers of the European Union:

We are writing to you with the certainty that our position is properly valued, as befits the responsibility of the position that you hold. We Cubans are going through a defining moment in our history. The economic crisis and the rise of the opposition movement are converging, despite the dangerous escalation of violence, arbitrary arrests, beatings and suspicious deaths in the last two years as numbers indicate especially against members of civil society. A government that has ever been elected by its citizens is now trying to convince the international community that it is making democratic changes. Reforms realized in Cuba to date, alleviate or do not the situation of a small percentage of the population. They do not guarantee recognition of human rights kidnapped for 55 years , but what they have done is increase social inequality and establish themselves with new mechanisms of control, because the government provides privileges and permissions but not rights . Reforms that serve to excuse those who on behalf of their economic interests seek to justify the totalitarian regime in Havana .

We do not understand the reasons which led to the lifting of obstacles to negotiate a treaty of cooperation with the Cuban government and the possible lifting of the common position. We put to you two questions without which a dialogue between democracies and those in power in our country could hinder the possibility of a democratic transition in Cuba. We hope that the sunset clause on human rights that is negotiated contribute to:

1.Put an end to the impunity of State Security of the Cuban Government , noting the willingness of the European Union to promote an independent investigation in an International Court or with the UN framework to clarify the circumstances in which Oswaldo Payá (Sakharov Prize of the European Parliament ) and Harold Cepero died. We hope that in ethics and consistency in ethics you will support the resolution of the European Parliament (Article 69) of December 11, 2013, (2013 /2152 ( INI ) ) to prevent similar incidents continuing to occur on the island. We consider that one should require the immediate stop to the violence against members of civil society , the release of political prisoners and the possibility of an independent investigation into the suspicious deaths of O. Payá and H. Cepero .

2. Enable the realization of a plebiscite that offers the option to citizens of expressing if they want to participate in a process of free and pluralistic elections with democratic guarantees. In this manner we ask you to support effective citizen participation, taking into account the recognition given by the European Union to the Varela Project. An initiative of legal change supported by more than 25,000 citizens, based on the current Constitution, proposed the realization of the plebiscite.

We are not opposed to the negotiation process that is a fact and we offer our participation as free agents of Cuban civil society, representing a political alternative, with over 25 years in the island and in exile. Respectfully we want to warn that there are still many reforms that the Cuban government can make, even internationally, without starting a real democratic transition. In the confidence of the fidelity that you profess to democratic values ​​we know that you understand that the absence of both above points that we proposed in the process of negotiations could signify a support for the maintenance in power of the oppressors. Cubans have been capable of designing a path for the transition, we have the hope that you will accompany them through it.

Coordinating Council of the Christian Liberation Movement.

ABC ......... However, opposition organizations like the Christian Liberation Movement have already made it known from inside Cuba that " we do not understand the reasons which led to the lifting of obstacles to negotiate a treaty of cooperation and the possible lifting of the common position common " considering the dangerous escalation of violence , especially against members of civil society as the numbers of arbitrary arrests , beatings and suspicious deaths in the last two years indicate. "

Original Spanish text and slightly different version by Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo published in El Mundo on January 30, 2014.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Gandhi King Payá Season for Nonviolence: January 30 - July 22

Gandhi King Payá Season for Nonviolence: January 30 - July 22
174 days to honor three icons of nonviolent resistance with the dates of their assassinations marking the start, midpoint and end of a series of events and exercises. Inspired by the 64 day Season for Nonviolence initiated by Dr. Arun Gandhi in 1988 and continued to the present day this event will focus on three icons of nonviolence who were martyred: Mohandas Gandhi on January 30, 1948, Martin Luther King Jr. on April 4, 1968 and  Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on July 22, 2012. Each left behind a body of writings and a lifetime of activism that still inspire today. This effort falls within the guidelines of the 64 day Season for Nonviolence:
"The Season for Nonviolence represents a successful new model called, 'omni - local' conscious action: 'Engaging large numbers of self - empowered leaders and groups in a collective intention, supplied with strategic sharable tools, adding their own local resources to work globally with singular purpose.'"
Beginning on January 30, 2014 with this announcement we will focus on a number of actions that span the physical, the psychological and the spiritual. Dates that will involve concrete actions are the following:
January 30 - 66 year observance of the killing of Mohandas Gandhi
February 23 - Four year observance of the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo on Hunger Strike
February 24 - 18 year observance of the killings of four members of Brothers to the Rescue
April 4 - 46 year observance of the killing of Martin Luther King Jr.
May 8 - Three year observance of the killing of Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia
May 25 - 42 year observance of the death of Pedro Luis Boitel on hunger strike
July 13 - 20 year observance of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat sinking that killed 37
July 22 - Two year observance of the killings of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante

The Objectives 

Our objective is to create an awareness of nonviolent principles and practice as a powerful way to heal, transform and empower our lives and community. Through an educational and community action campaign, we will recognize those who have and are using nonviolence to build a community that honors the dignity and worth of every human being. By identifying “what works” in these new models for reconciliation and human harmony, this effort will demonstrate that every person can move the world in the direction of peace through their daily nonviolent choice and action.

The Vision

The Gandhi - King - Payá Season for Nonviolence 

As a human family we are asking the question: “How can any act of violence be recognized as a solution to the consequences of violence that we face today?” Violent actions and reactions are t he scars of social, educational, and economic wounds... the voices of a spiritually inarticulate culture. The practice of nonviolence is initiated by choice and cultivated through agreement. The time has come to agree upon this as a global community as if our lives, and those of our children’s children, depended on it. Our vision is of a better world for all human beings. To this end, we undertake the “Gandhi - King Payá Season for Nonviolence” by applying our efforts and resources to identifying, then bringing focus to the spectrum of grassroots projects and programs by individuals and organizations who are pro - actualizing a peaceful social order.

Day 1 of the 174 Days of Gandhi King Payá 

Watch the following to videos related to Mohandas Gandhi. The first recorded in 1931 was the first interview given on camera to Mohandas Gandhi. The second video is a biography of the non-violent Indian icon. The final video is in Spanish and is by Sara Marta Fonseca, a recently exiled Cuban dissident and she speaks about the importance of Gandhi for activists in Cuba.

 Mohandas Gandhi interviewed in 1931

 Gandhi biography: Pilgrim of Peace

Sara Marta Fonseca speaks about the legacy of Mohandas Gandhi

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cuba 2014: Why this year is important

Despite heightened violence and repression Cubans are losing their fear

20 years ago on July 13, 1994 they were massacred by the Castro regime

The dictatorship in Cuba wants everyone to believe that 2014 is important because CELAC is being held in Havana but discerning people know better. 2014 will be important for a number of reasons. At the same time state security is engaged in a massive crackdown rounding up and threatening dissidents in an effort to maintain monopoly control. The Cuban government's body count continues to rise despite its apologists claims that it is reforming. This is nothing new.

Brothers to the Rescue martyrs murdered in act of state terrorism on February 24, 1996

 Less than a month from now, February 23rd will mark four years to the day that Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike defending human rights and dignity. February 24th will mark the eighteen years since the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown where Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre were blown out of the sky on orders of the Castro brothers while engaged in the search and rescue of Cuban rafters in international airspace in what was an act of state terrorism.

Died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010
2014 is also the 20th anniversary of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat masssacre off the coast of Havana where 37 men, women and children were murdered by agents of the Castro regime for wanting to flee the country on July 13, 1994.

Died under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012
 July 22 will mark two years since Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed under suspicious circumstances. Relatives and friends continue to demand an international investigation to clear up the circumstances of their deaths.

 The Free Cuba Foundation has and will continue to call for nonviolent actions to demand justice and remember the dear departed.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s December 11, 1964 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture that is required reading for advocates of nonviolence and resistance to injustice. Reverend King is a figure that inspired and continues to inspire Cuban dissidents to take action against injustice using nonviolent means.

Unfortunately, as the dictatorship engages in its distractions and those who should know better grant it a legitimacy that is not warranted, another man, Marcelino Abreu unjustly imprisoned, is dying on hunger strike. Let us pray that he survives this ordeal. Despite the media makeover to the contrary the human rights situation in Cuba remains dismal as revealed in Human Rights Watch's 2014 report on Cuba.

Despite the extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, death threats, and physical assaults Cubans are losing their fear and demanding that their rights be respected. On January 21, 2014 in the morning hours hundreds of Cubans took to the street in Holguin which is located in Eastern Cuba to protest against the confiscation of their household goods by government officials.

Friday, January 3, 2014

How the Castros stole Christmas in Cuba

Reports over the past three years demonstrate a pattern of repression during Christmas in Cuba that should raise concern. The latest involve children physically assaulted and toys seized by the political police to prevent them being given to children on Three Kings Day. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Free Cuba Foundation has had to address the issue. Back in 2000 we held a press conference to protest the seizure of toys and clothing for Cuban children and also the beating and arrest of Cuban dissident Victor Rolando Arroyo who was storing the toys and clothes. Below is the statement that Free Cuba Foundation released at the time. Sadly, things haven't improved since then. Victor was imprisoned on March 18, 2003 and sentenced to 26 years in prison. Recognized as a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International and spent nearly the next 8 years in prison only to trade prison in Cuba for exile in Spain.

Victor Rolando Arroyo

Free Arroyo and Return the Toys

Free Cuba Foundation, January 18, 2000

The Free Cuba Foundation held a press conference January 17 at 11:30am at the Graham Center west wall located on the University Park Campus at Florida International University denouncing the Cuban government's Scrooge-like arrest and prosecution of Victor Rolando Arroyo for gathering and distributing toys to poor Cuban children.

"If the Cuban government claims that they have mobilized the Cuban people out of the humanitarian motive that a boy be reunited with his father, then how can it explain impeding toys obtained legally in Cuba for distribution to economically disadvantaged children?" asks John Suarez of the Free Cuba Foundation. "Free Arroyo and return the toys and clothing so that they can be distributed to those in need," concludes Mr. Suarez.

Last Saturday Victor Rolando Arroyo's residence was searched by State Security and 150 toys were confiscated, and he was immediately arrested. He had already distributed over a 100 toys, and his home was being used as a distribution center in Pinar del Rio for The Millenium's Three Wise Men Project. A project initiated in Cuba by the Cuban non-governmental organization Corriente Martiana. Arroyo was tried on Friday and sentenced to 6 months in prison for "hoarding toys."

"Victor Rolando Arroyo will spend 6 months in prison for gathering and distributing toys to poor children in Cuba according to a Havana court if we do nothing," declared Xavier Utset. Arroyo has 72 hours to appeal and they run out this afternoon at 3pm. "It's both ironic and sad that on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the year 2000 we have to be defending the right of a man to engage in acts of charity without being imprisoned," said John Suarez.

The Free Cuba Foundation, an FIU student based organization, gathered toys, and clothing for The Millenium's Three Wise Men Project. For additional background information on the organization and the project visit

Attached is the declaration read by Mr. Suarez in English. Xavier Utset read it in Spanish.


Press Conference

Free Cuba Foundation
Monday, January 17, 2000

This statement is not a political statement, nor was our participation in The Millenium's Three Wise Men Project remotely political. We are here today to demand that Víctor Rolando Arroyo be released, and that the toys confiscated by Cuban State Security be returned to him so that they can be finally delivered to the poor children of Pinar del Rio in Cuba. We believe that interactions between the Cuban people can and must transcend politics. That is why we as individuals, and as an organization embarked on supporting this project initiated in Cuba by the civic group Corriente Martiana.
In Cuba it is almost impossible for families without hard currency to buy toys and gifts for their children. Corriente Martiana initiated a national and international campaign to collect toys and clothing and distribute them to the neediest children on the Day of the Three Wise Men which is traditionally January 6. The aims of Corriente Martiana (which we share) in carrying out this project are the following:

First - To provide a moment of happiness to the neediest children and families in each community, without discrimination of any kind, by distributing the gifts that may be collected through charity.

Second - To foster evangelization by enclosing a message explaining the significance of that day according to Holy Scripture and Cuban cultural and religious traditions.

Third - To revitalize a traditional feast day in our culture.

What we say today echoes the declarations made by Corriente Martiana in Cuba on January 10. We call to reason, justice, and the law to prevail in this case, and that the confiscated toys be returned to the city of Pinar del Rio and that the 6 month prison sentence leveled against Víctor Rolando Arroyo be dismissed. Finally, that these toys be delivered to the poor children without any political taint.
If the government claims that they have mobilized the Cuban people out of humanitarian motives for the sole purpose that a boy be reunited with his father, then how can it explain impeding toys obtained legally in Cuba for distribution to economically disadvantaged children?

According to Prof. Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez Valdés, of Corriente Martiana the days leading up to January 6 toys and clothing were distributed in the towns of Bahía Honda, Cabañas, Guanajay and El Cano, without incident but the evangelization was limited due to a lack of equipment to reproduce the evangelical message on paper.

The arrest and trial of Arroyo, and the confiscation of over 140 toys in Pinar del Rio was the exception. We demand that justice be done. That an act of charity, by people of goodwill on both sides of the Florida Straits, not end in such an ugly manner. Imprisonment for an innocent man and children denied toys on the Day of the Three Wise Men. Free Arroyo and return the toys and clothing so that they can be distributed to those in need.