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Sunday, June 29, 2014

20 Years Demanding Justice for the 37 Victims of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Massacre

There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest. - Elie Wiesel


37 Cubans, of which 20 of them ranged in age from 5 months to 27 years old were massacred by agents of the Cuban government on July 13, 1994  in an operation stage managed by State Security. It was only the unexpected appearance of a Greek trawler that brought the massacre to an end leaving survivors to tell what had happened.  The murdered Cubans had been seeking to live in freedom and had a relative who was a tugboat captain that would get them there on board the "13 de Marzo"tugboat. What these Cubans did not know was that State Security had gotten wind of the affair and had prepared for their departure and execution six miles off the Havana coast line.

For the past two decades at FIU a moment of silence held on July 13
The Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) came into existence in August of 1993 and less than a year later this atrocity would shock and outrage its members and lead the organization to commit itself until the present day denouncing the crime and calling for justice.

On the first anniversary of the tugboat sinking FCF members participated in the flotilla organized by Ramon Saul Sanchez and what would later become known as the Democracy Movement that entered Cuban waters to lay flowers at the site where the massacre had taken place. Cuban gunboats crushed the hull of the lead boat "Democracia"on which Ramon Saul Sanchez was on board. (Incidentally the Democracy Movement has organized a flotilla for the 20th anniversary of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre.) At the same time at Florida International University a silent vigil was held in memory of the victims.

Silent vigil at FIU on July 13, 1998

This began a tradition of holding a moment of silence on July 13 every year in memory of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat victims. Gathering around the main fountain at Florida International University in a silent vigil for justice. With or without press coverage, rain or shine, we would gather and pay our respects and continue our demand for justice. We would use the emerging social media at the time to inform the world about what had happened.

On July 14, 1998 Cathy Reyes of the FIU student newspaper, The Beacon, published a story on the vigil titled: "Free Cuba Foundation, community remember "13 de Marzo" victims" reporting on the 25 students and members of the university who gathered the day before in a silent vigil and quoted some of the FCF members who explained the reason for the event:
"Four years ago on early July 13, 1994, the tugboat "13 de Marzo" was attacked by agents of the Cuban government," said John Suarez, ... "They repeatedly rammed the tug, used high pressure water hoses on the victims and sank the ship seven miles off the coast of Havana, Cuba."

"We must remember those who died at the hands of Castro's inhumane regime," said Jose Raul Carro ...  

"We don't think FIU students know much about this event that occurred four years ago. It is an event that the whole world knows, but it is not as known in FIU," said Xavier Utset, FCF president
On December 10, 1998 we signed and sent a signed statement calling on the wider community to "Join Our Silent Call for Justice" that was published in The Miami Herald on December 28, 1998 which placed the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre into Cuba's historical context. In 1999 the Free Cuba Foundation made public another declaration, "Call for Justice on the 5th Anniversary of the "13 de Marzo" Massacre and announced the following:
"We seek to draw attention to these outrages, and we plan to do so by raising a civil and respectful call for justice. We believe that the crimes committed above are a result of the utilization of violence, arrogance, and hatred as government policy. The policy is evil. The best way to oppose evil is not with more evil. Gandhi observed that, "civility and humility are expressions of the spirit of non-violence while incivility and insolence indicates the spirit of violence." Therefore, on July 13, 1999, we will be fasting at Florida International University for 24 hours. We will be holding silent vigils in remembrance of those who have died violently in the Florida Straits..."
The 24 hour fast and a five minute silent vigil for justice were both carried out on July 13, 1999. Over the years in 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 the silent vigils continued adding a minute to each year. On the tenth anniversary in 2004 the press descended on Florida International University and reported on the 10 minute vigil that year and The Miami Herald quoted FCF coordinator Neri Martinez:
'This was a massacre,'' said Neri Martínez, 22, coordinator of the Free Cuba Foundation, a student group that organized a vigil at Florida International University. The group marked 10 minutes of silence, one for each year that has passed. ''It's a silent call for justice,'' Martínez said. ``Not only are we remembering the victims, but we are also condemning the crimes committed by the Cuban government on its own people.''
 The Sun Sentinel offered the following report of what took place at FIU on July 13, 2004:
During a noon ceremony at Florida International University, about 20 people climbed up on the edge of an empty concrete fountain, joined hands and stood in silence for about 10 minutes."This was a very big crime against humanity," said Neri Martinez, coordinator for the Free Cuba Foundation, a student group. "People need to remember what's going on inside of Cuba."
On July 12, 2006 at Florida International University the Free Cuba Foundation organized a panel discussion on what had happened on July 13, 1994 and its links to the February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. Guest speakers were Ramon Saul Sanchez of the Democracy Movement and Jose Basulto of Brothers to the Rescue. The Associated Press made mention of the gathering in one of its stories on Cuba policy. The following day on July 13 at 12 noon a 12 minute silent vigil was held at the FIU main fountain and captured on video.

Past FCF presidents Susana Navajas (center) and Pedro Ross (far right) listen to Jorge Garcia
 Silent vigils continued to be announced and held at Florida International University in 2007 and 2008 adding a minute for each year that had passed without justice. On 2009 for the 15th anniversary of the "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre the Free Cuba Foundation held a panel discussion with Jorge Garcia, a family member, who had 14 relatives extrajudicially executed in the massacre. Earlier that day FCF held a 15 minute silent vigil. The Spanish newswire EFE reported the following:
"We want to say to the world that this was a crime against persons who only wanted to leave Cuba to have liberty. We consider that this crime should not remain in impunity," said Julio Menache co-president of FCF at FIU. FCF will commemorate the event with a vigil and projection of a ducumentary about persons who lost family members in the sinking of the tugboat. At the event will be present Jorge García who lost 14 family members, among them his son Joel of 20 years of age and his grandson Juan Marion, of 10 years.
In 2010 a dissident who had been jailed for protesting for justice in the case of the July 13, 1994 tugboat massacre joined the silent vigil at FIU organized by FCF and afterwards spoke with us about his ordeal. The silent vigils without much press attention continued to be held in 2011, 2012 and 2013. This year will mark 20 years and the silent vigil will be for 20 minutes. Members will also continue to reflect on what else can be done to obtain justice using nonviolent means for the 37 victims of the tugboat massacre. We are already calling on people of good will world around the world to gather, hold and document their own 20 minute silent vigils for justice for the victims of the July 13, 1994 "13 de Marzo" tugboat massacre.

FCF silent vigil at Florida Internaitonal University in 2013

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Call to Action on July 13, 2014: 20 Minutes of Silence for 20 Years of Injustice in "13 de Marzo" Tugboat Sinking

“Don't raise your voice, improve your argument." - Desmond Tutu 

The argument has been made and the reports written and the guilt of the Castro regime established by international human rights bodies such as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, but twenty years later there is still no justice.

The argument has been made and cannot be improved. Screaming and shouting in a world full of noise will not achieve justice and undermines the seriousness of this crime. We are supporting all nonviolent actions that respect the dignity of those killed, and their families.

Please share and encourage friends wherever they are on July 13, 2014 at 3:00pm to join in a 20 minute moment of silence. Gather in a group or individually and take a photo at the end of the vigil holding up the above image calling for justice. 

The quote in the picture above is taken from Inter-American Commission on Human Rights report

REPORT Nº 47/96  CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs. CUBA October 16, 1996 and is available online:

We will be updating this site in the next few days with a list of planned activities to remember this terrible crime, pray for the victims and continue to demand justice.

The persons killed on July 13, 1994 in the "13 de Marzo" incident are

Leonardo Notario Góngora, 
Marta Tacoronte Vega, 
Caridad Leyva Tacoronte, 
Yausel Eugenio Pérez Tacoronte, 
Mayulis Méndez Tacoronte, 
Odalys Muñoz García, 
Pilar Almanza Romero, 
Yaser Perodín Almanza, 
Manuel Sánchez Callol, 
Juliana Enriquez Carrasana, 
Helen Martínez Enríquez, 
Reynaldo Marrero, 
Joel García Suárez, 
Juan Mario Gutiérrez García, 
Ernesto Alfonso Joureiro, 
Amado Gonzáles Raices, 
Lázaro Borges Priel, 
Liset Alvarez Guerra, 
Yisel Borges Alvarez , 
Guillermo Cruz Martínez, 
Fidelio Ramel Prieto-Hernández, 
Rosa María Alcalde Preig, 
Yaltamira Anaya Carrasco, 
José Carlos Nicole Anaya, 
María Carrasco Anaya, 
Julia Caridad Ruiz Blanco, 
Angel René Abreu Ruiz, 
Jorge Arquímides Lebrijio Flores, 
Eduardo Suárez Esquivel, 
Elicer Suárez Plascencia, 
Omar Rodríguez Suárez, 
Miralis Fernández Rodríguez, 
Cindy Rodríguez Fernández, 
José Gregorio Balmaceda Castillo, 
Rigoberto Feut Gonzáles, 
Midalis Sanabria Cabrera

Friday, June 20, 2014

SOS Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" needs your help

"Today I alert the world that my life is more in danger than ever."- Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" ( rearrested two days later)
Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" detained and tortured in Cuba
 Cuban opposition activist Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez" beginning on June 11, 2014 has been subjected to a new round of brutality at the hands of agents of the Castro regime. Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter offers a decent overview with plenty of links and quotes.

The most shocking parts are a home invasion by state security agents at 6:00am on June 11th ransacking Antúnez's very modest home and roughing up and handcuffing both him and his wife, an activist in her own write, Yris Tamara Perez Aguilera.

Held incommunicado until Friday morning (June 13) and Jorge Luis spoke of beatings by state security agents and a man in a white lab coat placing him in a choke hold and knocking him out ( this while Antúnez is seated with his hands cuffed behind his back and helpless). According to Jorge Luis this was done to him twice.

He was re-arrested along with his wife on Sunday evening (June 15). She was released Monday night but he remains jailed and his wife has received reports that he was brutally punched, kicked and hit with batons leaving him in a very bad state.

Worse yet he has been on a hunger strike since June 15.

Antúnez's family is asking for help. They are circulating a petition calling for his release and for his physical integrity to be respected. Please sign it.

#FreeElCritico Jailed Rapper Faces Show Trial Today

Cuban rapper jailed since March 2013 to undergo political show trial in Cuba for speaking his mind.

Pedazos de la Isla produced the above image and is campaigning for his release
On March 21, 2013, police agents tear gassed and arrested Cuban dissident and rapper Angel Yunier Remón Arzuaga, whose stage name is “el Critico del Arte” (the “Art Critic”). In an act of revenge against his criticizism of the Castro regime, they have arbitrarily detained Angel Yunier since then, without charges. Another rapper, Rodolfo Ramires, known as El Primario was so brutally beaten that he suffered memory loss. Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter outlined how the attack took place.

During that time, officials have also denied his wife, Yudisbel Roseyo, the right to visit her husband — although this has changed now that her husband’s condition has become critical. They have subjected the unjustly-jailed rapper to further violence, even as he has suffered a bout of cholera, and they have continued their harassment against his wife, provoking him into a hunger strike in November of 2013.

According to Radio Republica and he is scheduled to stand trial on Friday, June 2014.

The Czech non-governmental organization, People in Need, has issued a new international appeal to free El Critico.

Marc Masferrer of Uncommon Sense has also reported that there is a global action today at starting at 9:00am Eastern Standard Time:

Supporters worldwide are organizing a worldwide protest, via social media, on El Critico's behalf.
At 9 a.m. EDT Friday, take to your Twitter or other social media accounts and demand -- with the hashtag #FreeElCritico -- the Castro regime immediately end this injustice and release El Critico from jail. The demands may fall on deaf ears in Havana, but they will demonstrate to El Critico and his family -- and the dictatorship -- that he is not alone, that the whole world is watching.
In the continuing fight for justice and freedom in Cuba, that is vital.

Free Cuba Foundation backs this effort and will take part in #FreeElCritico on social media.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Remember Victims of July 13, 1994 Tugboat Massacre and Demand Justice

"It’s important to realize that this is a process of truth telling, that’s very, very important. When you are dealing with a totalitarian regime, such as the Castro government, you have a culture of lies that you have to deal with.... Lies sustain authoritarian governments. Lies about the people themselves, lies about the people who are enemies. And by acknowledging our wounds we begin a process of truthfulness." - Father Robert Schreiter on reconciliation in Cuba (2012).

37men, women, and children killed on July 13, 1994
One month from today will mark 20 years that have passed since 37 men, women and children were massacred by agents of the Cuban government as they tried to find a better life in freedom. On the early morning hours of July 13, 1994 the "13 de Marzo" tugboat left Havana harbor bound for the United States only to be intercepted six miles from the Malecón by other tugs that rammed and sank it while being monitored by the Cuban coastguard.

 Over the past 19 years this day has been a time to remember and to organize actions for others to remember this crime and demand justice. This year is no different. How do you plan to remember the victims and continue the call for justice?

This is not about revenge. It is the pursuit of justice and truth through time which requires persistence and memory. This is a necessary component of national reconciliation.

Useful videos and links:

CUBA: The Sinking of the "13 de Marzo" Tugboat on 13 July 1994 / Amnesty International

REPORT Nº 47/96: CASE 11.436 VICTIMS OF THE TUGBOAT "13 DE MARZO" vs.CUBA October 16, 1996 / IACHR

Cuba: Cuban authorities should lift threats against peaceful protesters / Amnesty International

Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Tank Man and His Nonviolent Stand: A Quarter of a Century Later

“Violence and power are not the same.” Rather, “Power and violence are opposites; where the one rules absolutely, the other is absent.” Therefore, “to speak of nonviolent power is actually redundant.” -Hannah Arendt

Tank Man faces off with a column of tanks in Beijing on June 5, 1989
Twenty five years ago today following the June 3-4, 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown and Beijing massacre a lone man  walked out into the street carrying two grocery bags facing down a long column of tanks and for a moment stopping them and get on top of the lead tank before being spirited away. His identity and fate remain the subject of speculation.

The Tiananmen Square protests and the Democracy Movement formed by university students in April of 1989 was a non-violent challenge to the corruption, terror, and tyranny of the Chinese communist dictatorship that almost succeeded. Questions have arisen about decisions made by the demonstrators and/or naivete about the nature of the regime but two things have never been doubted: their courage and love of country.

On June 5, 1989 after the streets had run red with the blood of freedom martyrs this lone individual engaged in an act of nonviolent protest and resistance that will be remembered centuries from now. The world may never learn the name given to him by his family but he has a name determined by his action: Tank Man. The man who faced down the row of tanks in protest of what those tanks had done in the previous two nights.

Radley Balko has written a thought provoking piece in The Washington Post on June 4, 2014 titled: Be your own Tank Man that calls on all of us to learn from and when appropriate channel his courage to confront injustices and abuses of power in our own countries. 
Members of the FIU community on June 4, 2014

Last night, June 4, 2014 at Florida International University members of the university community gathered and said a prayer as part of a call to action by Initiatives for China and read their recommended prayer. Below is an excerpt from the prayer that was read aloud last night:

Let us give thanks for the courage of the young people of Tiananmen Square who 25 years ago showed the world that the Chinese people desire freedom and justice above all earthly goods, and who were willing to give their lives in their brave witness. May all be strengthened by their bravery. May all be blessed by their memory. 
All: Let us remember with gratitude the martyrs of Tiananmen Square. 
In this anniversary of China’s young martyrs let us pray that the Chinese leaders of today would turn their hearts away from fear and defensiveness, that they would reach out to the victims and victims’ families, and repent of the massacre of China’s youth. May repentance be the first step toward reconciliation and be a promise to history to never again turn on their own people in murder.
    Amen. That includes the Tank Man wherever he may be.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Call to Action on 25th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square and the Beijing Massacre

 “This is for the lost souls of June 4th.” - Liu Xiaobo, 2010 Nobel Peace Prize Lecture

Intellectuals, incl. Liu Xiaobo, started hunger strike in Tiananmen Sq.
 Dear Friends in Freedom,

As the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Crackdown and the Beijing Massacre on June 3-4, 1989 the Free Cuba Foundation reaffirms its solidarity with the Chinese Pro-Democracy Movement.

We call on friends of freedom everywhere to do three things over the next three days:
1. Denounce arrest of Chinese activists and human rights defenders in ongoing crackdown to silence voices on 25th anniversary and at the same time ask about the plight of remaining political prisoners imprisoned during the 1989 student protests over social media and via petitions.

2. Join in a global prayer action for China and post photos, videos, audios, and writings about what you did. Initiatives for China, an independent non-governmental organization, has proclaimed June 4, 2014 as a Global Prayer Day for China obtaining the support of Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Former Taiwanese President Lee Tenghui. A suggested prayer is available online here.

3. Share videos of documentaries on the  Tiananmen Square protests, the crackdown and massacre, and the aftermath. For example, Tiananmen Mothers, a group of family members of those killed during the violent crackdown on the 1989 Democracy Movement produced a short documentary: "Portraits of Loss and the Quest for Justice"in which the stories of six victims are told by their family members, and two survivors provide their own testimony. It can be viewed online here.
 The Free Cuba Foundation since its founding recognized that being "victims of totalitarianism we share a bond with other captive peoples past and present who are our brothers and sisters in this struggle for freedom."

On the tenth anniversary of  Tiananmen Square Crackdown and Beijing Massacre in 1999 we released the following statement:
We, FlU members of the Free Cuba Foundation, honor the victims, primarily students, who sacrificed their lives for freedom, democracy, and reform ten years ago in China.
As students we feel a connection to those thousands of Chinese students who exercised their fundamental rights to associate and speak freely. They paid the highest price for freedom with their very lives.
On June 4, 1989 the Chinese military murdered thousands of unarmed students as they violently crushed the non-violent student gathering. We will never forget this heinous crime.
We repudiate the brutal actions of the government of communist China and call on the civilized world to hold all those responsible for this atrocity, and to call for justice for the students and Chinese people slaughtered ten years ago in the streets of Tiananmen square. 
On International Human Rights Day in 2003 the Free Cuba Foundation co-hosted along with the Cuban Committee for Human Rights the visit of Chinese human rights activist Harry Wu to Florida International University. During the visit Harry Wu announced his support for the Cuban embargo , while denouncing the lack of such a policy toward China. According to Wu, the majority of the profits have been funneled directly to "dying Communist institutions," thus prolonging their lives."

On the twentieth anniversary of Tiananmen on June 3, 2009 we co-hosted along with FIU Students for a Free Tibet, and UM CAUSA: Students United for a Free Cuba, Falun Gong, and Miami Friends of Tibet a presentation of the documentary "Tank Man" holding a discussion ending in a candlelight vigil reading off a partial list of victims, signed a formal statement and a moment of silence that ended at 10:31pm. A minute after the tanks entered the square and shooting began.

If you live in the Washington, DC area then Please join the Laogai Research Foundation in remembering the victims of the June 4th, 1989 turmoil
When: Today, June 2nd through June 4, 2014 from 4-6:30pm
Where: 1734 20th St., Washington D.C., 20009
Event starts at 4pm every afternoon
Tiananmen Square Massacre Photos will be exhibited
Film screening of the PBS Frontline Documentary The Tank Man from 5pm to 6:30pm
Refreshments will be served.
Please send an email with the subject “RSVP” to to RSVP.

Today we issue this call to action, prayer and reflection on behalf of our Chinese brothers and sisters who struggled and continue to struggle for freedom in China. We remember the thousands killed on the night of June 3rd and early morning of June 4th 1989 and the estimated one thousand issued death sentences and executed in the aftermath. We also remember those imprisoned for exercising their internationally recognized human rights.

June 5, 1989: man blocks a column of tanks following June 3-4 massacre
 Below are links to sites related to Tiananmen Square and the June 1989 Beijing Massacre:

A Brief Chronology of the 1989 Democracy Movement and Crackdown in Beijing

Restrictions, Detentions, and Disappearances before June 4, 2014

Congressional Hearing: Survivors of Tiananmen Sq. Massacre Testify on 25th Anniversary

Criminal Detentions Ahead of Tiananmen Anniversary Highlight Broader Trends

Tiananmen Initiative Project

In pictures: Beijing's Tiananmen Square protests

Stand off At Tiananmen

Virtual Museum of China '89

Non-Governmental Organizations
Initiatives for China      
Laogai Research Foundation
Human Rights in China


Tank Man (2006)
Website for documentary:
Youtube Video:

Gate of Heavenly Peace (1995)
Website for documentary:
Part 1:
Part 2: