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Saturday, January 31, 2015

Free Cuba Foundaton featured in Huffington Post on Obama Cuba Policy

Not In Our Name 

On 17 December 2014, President Barack Obama announced a change in U.S. Cuba policy and the Free Cuba Foundation feels the need to make its position clear in the following statement:

The Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) was founded at Florida International University in 1993. Throughout its history, FCF has been a steadfast and independent voice in favor of nonviolent resistance to injustice and tyranny.

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 shootdown 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.

The attack took place on a day that a national gathering called Concilio Cubano was to have started. A massive crackdown had been underway for days attracting international press attention. 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 to the Castro regime. This turned the United States into one of the top five trading partners of the Castro regime.

Economic sanctions were not 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 U.S.-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 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.

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.

We the present and former members of the Free CubaFoundation 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
Cindy Rodriguez
Raisa Romaelle
Pedro M. Ross
Juan Carlos Sanchez
Harold Alexander Silva
John Suarez
César Vásquez

This post is part of a Huffington Post blog series called "90 Miles: Rethinking the Future of U.S.-Cuba Relations." The series puts the spotlight on the emerging relations between two long-standing Western Hemisphere foes and will feature pre-eminent thought leaders from the public and private sectors, academia, the NGO community, and prominent observers from both countries. Read all the other posts in the series here.

If you'd like to contribute your own blog on this topic, send a 500-850-word post to (subject line: "90 Miles").

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

#24F Silent Vigil for Justice at FIU

"There is no forgiveness for acts of hatred. Daggers thrust in the name of liberty are thrust into liberty's heart. " - Jose Marti


On February 24, 2015 at beginning at 3:21pm and ending at 3:27pm we will be holding a silent vigil to demand justice for the four victims of the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down that took place 19 years ago on that day, and for the students murdered by agents of the Maduro puppet regime in Venezuela last February, and finally in remembrance of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the Cuban hunger striker who died on February 23, 2010 after years of torture. 

Unfortunately, this year we will also be silently protesting the release of the Cuban spy Gerardo Hernandez who was serving a life sentence for conspiracy to murder Mario, Pablo, Carlos, and Armando was freed by the Obama Administration in a trade that violated the spirit of the rule of law and justice.

This vigil will be held were it has been for the past 19 years at the main fountain at Florida International University at the campus located on 107th Ave. and SW 8 St. This is an open invitation for FIU students and members of the university community.   

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Join the vigil to protest the Obama-Castro Pact

 Stand up for your rights
Cuban Memorial at Tamiami Park (Next to Florida International University)

Time for students to again stand up for freedom in Cuba and to denounce the freeing of Gerardo Hernandez, a Cuban spy responsible for four deaths who was serving a life sentence for conspiracy to commit murder. Sign this petition and take part in a vigil to protest the Obama-Castro pact at the Cuban Memorial in Tamiami Park on Thursday, January 22 beginning at 5:00pm organized by the Cuban Resistance Assembly, of which the Free Cuba Foundation is a member.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. was born 86 years ago today on January 15, 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia and was assassinated on April 4, 1968 at the age of 39. Today we remember his words: "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

What: Vigil to protest the Obama-Castro Pact
When: Thursday, January 22, 2015 starts at 5pm
Where: Cuban Memorial, Tamiami Park 11201 SW 24 Street, Miami, FL (Next to FIU)
Who: Organized by the Cuban Resistance Assembly

Friday, January 2, 2015

Cuba's Christian Liberation Movement leader on forgiveness and complicity

"I forgive all the past in favor of a present and future of freedom and life. Not for me but for my people." ... I do not forgive out of hate. No, no but because forgiving a present and a future of injustice and totalitarianism for your country, is not mercy but complicity with the evil of others. -
Tony" Díaz Sánchez, January 2, 2014 over Facebook

Tony Díaz Sánchez of the Christian Liberation Movement

Antonio Ramón "Tony" Díaz Sánchez  is the secretary general of the Cuban Christian Liberation movement, a former Amnesty International prisoner of conscience and today over Facebook he posted the following comment that has been translated below that succinctly explains what drives so many on the issue of Cuba and why we refuse to remain silent. In the statement below Tony forgives all the injustices and crimes of the past but not the ones being committed presently or new ones in the future. He argues that forgiving present and future crimes are not examples of mercy but of complicity with the one who is doing or going to do wrong. A legal definition of complicity states: "Accountable for a criminal offense committed by another due to previous knowledge of other's crime."

"Me hate ??? Wrong compadre, mistaken my friend. I forgive all I have suffered. I forgive marginalization and monitoring my family, just for not being a communist. I forgive family separation, exclusion from the university, the repression of my ideas and peaceful actions. I forgive the public defamations issued without right to reply. I forgive the unjust imprisonment and imposed mistreatment. I forgive forced exile. I forgive the vile murder of my brothers in ideas. In short, I forgive all the past in favor of a present and future of freedom and life. Not for me but for my people.
Because what I do not forgive is that the year has started with the same repression that ended last year. What I can not forgive is that in my country, those who govern, do not recognize the need to change to democracy and allow the people to decide in free and pluralistic elections. I can not and do not want to forgive that right now at this instant there are political prisoners in Cuba and that the existing laws guarantee their imprisonment or perhaps the firing squad for others. I do not forgive that young people are living without life projects, while a group in power live as billionaires. Nor do I forgive the complicity of many interests that seek capital now in Cuba without wanting to find out today what is happening there. 
I do not forgive out of hate. No, no but because forgiving a present and a future of injustice and totalitarianism for your country, is not mercy but complicity with the evil of others."

Oswaldo Payá (Left), Regis Iglesias (Center), Tony Díaz(Right)