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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.