A coalition of 25 non-governmental human rights groups announced today that Cuban dissident and graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (aka El Sexto) who was just released from prison, and the daughter of the jailed Mayor of Caracas will be in the United Nations to turn an international spotlight on rights abuses by Cuba and Venezuela, at the opening of the 9th annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights & Democracy, which takes place on February 20-21, 2017.El Sexto, known for his provocative performance art criticizing the Castro regime, was just released from prison after spray painting “He’s Gone” in Havana on the day of Fidel Castro’s death. El Sexto was also imprisoned two years ago for painting the names “Raul” and “Fidel” on two pigs. He recently called out Cuba for sitting on the U.N. Human Rights Council while it oppresses its own people.Testifying on the dire situation in Venezuela—another country on the U.N. Human Rights Council—will be Antonietta Ledezma, daughter of the imprisoned Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma.El Sexto said: “I was freed without any specific charges levelled against me. Unfortunately, this is commonplace in my country. Then he mentioned other Cubans who were still in jail for political reasons: “Eduardo Cardet, Jaqueline Heredia Morales, Julio Ferrer, Yosvani Sánchez Valenciano, and many others.”“We need to call attention to the judicial process in Cuba, and we need to ensure that what happened to me does not happen again in the future.”After delivering his speech, El Sexto painted a graffito while dissident rapper Raudel Collazo (Escuadrón Patriota) sang. This joint performance was greeted with thunderous applause.
It appears that a vacation in apartheid Cuba where tourists can enjoy sandy beaches, all-you-can-eat buffets, free-flowing liquor, and salsa dance lessons while the Cuban people remain enslaved by a viciously oppressive dictatorship and are denied the most basic human rights is just not as popular with Americans as many thought it would be. Imagine that…
Airlines Forced to Cut Trips to Cuba Because Americans Don’t Want to Go
President Barack Obama’s concessions to Cuba opened the way for U.S. airlines to do business with the communist dictatorship. After announcing frequent flights to the island over a year ago, however, many major airlines have found the demand they expected from U.S. tourists simply is not there.
In an extensive report Friday, Bloomberg noted a general dismay both among airlines and other tourism-related businesses that Cuba was not proving as popular as they expected. The outlet reports that American Airlines was forced to cut a fourth of its flights to Cuba. JetBlue chose to use smaller planes rather than limit the number of flights but nonetheless had to address the low demand.
Different experts offered different explanations for this situation. One noted that the popularity of Cuba trips did increase in the immediate aftermath of President Obama’s 2014 announcement of restoring diplomatic ties with the dictatorship but that the initial interest ultimately fizzled. The soaring prices following the U.S.’s entry into the Cuban tourism market did not help. According to Bloomberg, “some rooms now cost as much as $650 per night, serving as a major deterrent to Americans hunting for novel warm-weather destinations,” and those prices began to rise long before the airlines began flying south.
While the United States relaxed laws allowing big businesses to operate in Cuba, the Cuban government did not change any of its laws to accommodate the extensive freedoms Americans are used to on free soil. This may have also impacted both Americans’ interest in Cuba and the ability of U.S. businesses to operate there.
A major example of business’s profit hopes clashing with draconian Communist laws occurred last year when Carnival Cruises announced its first voyages to Cuba. Cuban-Americans looking to take advantage of the trips rapidly found they were not welcome because the arrival of Cuban-Americans by ship violated a Communist Party law passed after President John F. Kennedy chose to doom the Cuban Bay of Pigs invasion to failure. Carnival’s decision to abide by Cuban law put the corporation at odds with the 1964 Civil Rights Act and triggered a wave of protests and a lawsuit. The Cuban government ultimately made an exception for Carnival.
Continue reading HERE.
Tomorrow, Cuba’s Latin America Youth Network for Democracy and Cuba Decide, a Cuban organization advocating for free elections on the island will hold a ceremony in Cuba to award OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and posthumously, Chilean President Don Patricio Aylwin with the first ever Oswaldo Payá Award “Liberty and Life.”
Wednesday, February 22, 2017, Secretary General of the OAS, Luis Almagro will receive the 1st Oswaldo Payá Award “Liberty and Life” 2016 in Havana.
The Latin America Youth Network for Democracy and the Cuban citizen initiative Cuba Decide are honored to invite all members of the press to the award ceremony of the 1st Oswaldo Payá Award “Liberty and Life” 2016 to Secretary General Luis Almagro, OAS.
We are pleased to recognize the honorable Mr. Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States and, in a posthumous manner, Don Patricio Aylwin distinguished with an honorable mention to be received in his name, by his daughter, the former parliamentarian and former Chilean minister of foreign affairs, Mariana Aylwin.
The ceremony will take place Wednesday, February 22, 2017 at 11:00 am at the Payá residence.
In Cuba, however, any event or public discourse that advocates freedom and democracy is of course viewed the by brutally repressive apartheid Castro dictatorship as an act of provocation. The regime has harassed and imprisoned the Cubans behind this event and now they have banned the daughter of President Aylwin from entering the country to receive the award in the name of her late father.
Castro regime refuses entry to President Aylwin’s daughter to receive Oswaldo Payá Prize
OAS Secretary General and Chile’s President Patricio Aylwin to be presented Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life Prize in Havana
Tonight at 9:15pm Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin tweeted “I can not embark to Cuba because of a ban issued by immigration from Cuba.” A short while later Rosa María Payá posted the document prohibiting Mariana from traveling to Cuba by order of the Castro dictatorship’s immigration department.
Rosa María Payá Acevedo returned to Cuba on February 15, 2017 to receive Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States at her home a week later on February 22, 2017 at 11:00am in Havana, Cuba. The purpose of the encounter is the presentation of the annual Oswaldo Payá Liberty and Life Prize to Luis Almagro also present at the ceremony will be Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the former Chilean president Patricio Aylwin who will receive the posthumous award on behalf of her late father. Patricio Aylwin was the president who oversaw the democratic transition in Chile following General Pinochet’s military rule and passed away on April 19, 2016.
Unfortunately the repressive nature of the regime was already on display with Julio Álvarez and Félix Fara two promoters of the Cuba Decide initiative, a campaign for a plebiscite led by Rosa María Payá Acevedo, were taken and have been under arrest since February 18, 2017 at 11:00am.
In addition communication has become much more difficult with the telephones out of service and all matter of obstacles to prevent that the information surrounding this event be made known inside Cuba. Despite this there is optimism that the word has gotten out and that civil society will be well represented on Wednesday.
Continue reading HERE.
Via Local 10 News:
Hundreds gather to honor those who’ve died fleeing Cuba
Service held at Cuban Memorial at Tamiami Park
MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – A memorial serves was held Sunday in Tamiami Park to remember the people who have died fleeing Cuba.
Hundreds gathered in front of the Cuban Memorial for the event, which was hosted by Miami-Dade Commissioner Joe Martinez.
Several speakers who have lost loves ones who tried to flee the communist Caribbean island spoke during the event.
“We look at this like it was a memorial but in reality, the way I look at it, it’s like it was a cemetery,” Martinez said. “The only difference is the body isn’t here. But their spirit is. You see people coming (here), not just on days like this, but throughout the year and they look for the name of that loved one. The one that they never saw, maybe for 20 years and then found out they were dead. ”
Martinez said he hopes that the younger generation of Cubans will make an effort to support the memorial because it represents more than just the past but also the future.
“I saw very few children here and what happens when we are gone?” Martinez said.
Lillian Salaya said she makes sure her children know about their Cuban heritage.
“My stepdad was actually one of the political prisoners. He was arrested when he was 17 years old and served his whole childhood in prison where they would stick him in drawers,” she said.
She said it’s important to remember those who have lost their lives fleeing Cuba.
“I have four children and I talk to them about it,” Salaya said. “I try to give them instruction on everything that’s happened so it’s not forgotten.”
There is hope that after Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García’s meeting with representatives of the Ladies in White, that he will usher in a new era of tolerance by speaking out against the injustices committed by the regime against the Cuban people.
Via Diario de Cuba:
Editorial: The Catholic Church takes a good step
Ever since the trip to Cuba taken by Pope John Paul II, the Cuban Catholic Church’s dedication to the defense of human rights has clearly been insufficient. Understandably, some have come to describe this failure as constituting collusion with the dictatorship, especially during the years and years under Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, who decided to advance the Church’s position on the Island at the expense of not denouncing the social, political and economic crisis induced by the dictatorship. Ortega Alamino even went so far as to deny the existence of political prisoners in Cuba, and to serve as a spokesman for the regime in various international forums.
While Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to Cuba yielded few advances in the struggle for human rights, that by Pope Francis was downright regrettable, with the pontiff solely focused on repairing relations between Cuba and the US, without even acknowledging the main problems haunting the country: the lack of freedom and permanent violations of human rights.
On Wednesday, however, the current Archbishop of Havana, Juan de la Caridad Garcia, received representatives of the Ladies in White and spoke with them, thereby sending an encouraging signal.
Hopefully this dialogue will help to lessen the harassment this group of women regularly receives from civil society, and the Catholic Church, without renouncing its ecclesiastical work and promotion of the faith, will speak out regarding the injustices suffered by the Cuban people at the regime’s hands.
The trail blazed by Archbishop Juan de la Caridad García must be trod again in the near future, for the sake of the Catholic Church, and for the good of the Cuban people, both believers and nonbelievers.
We’ve often heard, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In his latest Commentary, Dr. Jose Azel looks at the similarities between the “Autonomists” of 19th century Cuba, and those of today who believe in engagement and accommodation, willing to accept a gradual change rather than abolishing Cuba’s totalitarian system. He rightly concludes that Cuban communism must be abolished.
Cuba’s New “Autonomists” of the XXI Century
In the second half of the XIX Century, during the inter-war period between Cuba’s Ten Years’ War (1868) and its War of Independence (1895), a reformist political movement emerged in Cuba under the rubric of Autonomismo.
Frustrated by the failure of the Ten Years’ War, and convinced that no other viable options were available, some Cuban intellectuals and businessmen sought to obtain a greater degree of political and economic autonomy from Spain while remaining under its rule. They were encouraged by a measure of tolerance shown by the then Spanish Captain General of Cuba, General Martínez Campos.
Some Autonomistas believed that Cubans would be better off as Spanish citizens, but with a greater degree of economic autonomy. Others Autonomistas held that partial reformism was a better alternative to a prolonged struggle for independence from Spain. In any case, they postulated that Autonomismo was not incompatible with Spanish sovereignty and sought to gain political “space” from the Crown.
Although the political stance and ideological elitism of the autonomists disturbed José Marti, who championed Cuba’s full independence from Spain, autonomists were not traitors or anti-nationalists. Some were former independentists who had fought bravely in the Ten Years’ War but were now convinced that times had changed and a new strategy was needed to fight Spanish colonialism.
Fast forward some 140 years and we find nowadays a similar divide in the Cuban nation. The label autonomist no longer applies, but the contemporary approaches to Cuba’s future correspond with those of the XIX Century.
The “neo-autonomists” of today, both in and out of the Island support gradual change that does not alter the command and control structure of Cuba’s totalitarian system. They view the minimalist economic reforms introduced by General Raúl Castro with the same sense of encouragement that the Autonomistas attached to General Martinez Campos’ apparent forbearance. Some seek to “actualize” the communist system; others see the purported reforms as political space or a strategic opportunity to undermine Cuba’s totalitarianism over the long-term. Not unlike the frustrated ethos that permeated the Cuban nation following the inconclusive Ten Years’ War, “neo-autonomists” perceive gradual reformism as the only viable course after nearly sixty years of communist rule and many failed efforts to overthrow the dictatorship.
Also not unlike the Autonomistas of the XIX Century, they will also eventually realize that the Castro government, like the Spanish Crown, has no intention of allowing legitimate reforms that will undermine its totalitarian rule. One of the lessons we have learned in the study of totalitarian systems throughout the world is that such systems do not generate truthful or useful knowledge regarding the causes of their own malfunction. Thus totalitarian systems are ontologically incapable of reforming themselves. Simply put, Cuban communism is not reformable. It must be abolished.
A defining feature of the Cuban experience under totalitarian rule is that of an intrusive state whose elites have used pervasive repression to atomize society. This process has eliminated political competition, destroyed economic performance and rendered civil society weak and ineffective debilitated by a miasma of fear.
Initiatives which do not empower society, leave the hegemonic political system untouched, and seek exclusively to alter official policies to improve economic conditions are contrary to democratic values. This is essentially what the Autonomistas sought in the XIX Century and what their modern day counterparts pursue today.
The “neo-autonomists,” as their predecessors, believe that economic progress is an essential antecedent to civic empowerment and must come first; popular sovereignty is not a priority. Central to their argument is that change should originate with an enlightened autocratic government and not with the will of the people.
The democratic counterargument is that civic empowerment is the foundation of progress and its necessary precondition. These divergent approaches may seem to differ only in the sequencing and prioritizing of polices. However, the differences are philosophically fundamental. The eradication of personal freedoms is incompatible with human dignity and the pursuit of happiness.
The contemporary Autonomistas look to economic measures undertaken by General Castro without democratic empowerment as useful to foster prosperity. This belief embodies the elitist and despotic notion that the “special knowledge” of the few should rule the activities of the many. This conviction is particularly noxious to Cuba’s future, because democracy will fail everywhere when there is no appreciation for its decisive role in good governance.
The citizenry empowerment camp values individual freedoms as essential to living meaningful lives. They do not consider political rights and civil liberties as superfluous luxuries to be perhaps appended following a program of economic reforms. As Nobel Prize laureate Indian economist Amartya Sen has noted, “People in economic need also need a political voice.”
The Mexican government itself has pledged $50 million in legal defense funds towards this jamming of U.S. courts as planned and promoted by Jorge Castañeda, who was introduced by Tucker Carlson as “Mexico’s former Foreign Minister, also a NYU professor and Board member of Human Rights Watch.”
Democrats and the mainstream media would have us gag and shudder at such fulfillments of the U.S. Constitution—because they offend the sensibilities of a former Mexican Communist Party member and spy for Cuba’s terror-sponsoring Stalinist regime.
Democrats and the mainstream media would have us gag and shudder at such fulfillments of the U.S. Constitution—because they offend the sensibilities of a former Mexican Communist Party member and spy for Cuba’s terror-sponsoring Stalinist regime.
“Whoops! What was that?” some readers ask.
Yes, amigos, I’m afraid that — either due to politeness or ignorance –Tucker Carlson scrimped on his guest Jorge Castañeda’s curriculum vitae. (We’ll flesh it out in a second.)
But firstly, from 2000-2003 Jorge Castañeda served as Mexico’s Foreign Minister. On March 2nd, 2002, 21 desperate Cuban refugee wannabes crammed into Mexico’s embassy in Havana hoping to emigrate from Castro’s Cuba to Mexico. (In prosperous, European immigrant-swamped pre-Castro Cuba, by the way, the family and friends of any Cuban seeking to immigrate to Mexico would have promptly recommended him to a psychiatrist.)
At any rate, promptly upon notice of this violation of Mexican sovereignty by immigrant wannabes, Jorge Castañeda —a man apparently scandalized by U.S. judicial procedures, especially as regards to illegal immigrants—ordered Castro’s Stalinist police to enter the embassy and drag the desperate Cubans out.
Now let’s expand a bit on Jorge Castaneda’s “credentials.”I hold here in my hands a document detailing how this very Jorge Castañeda was recruited by Cuba’s KGB-trained secret police as a spy, where he served loyally for almost five years.
Our friends at Townhall help disseminate items not well known outside the tiny Cuban-American informational ghetto.
“Humberto Fontova is a gifted polemicist who pulls no punches. A great service for liberty, justice and truth.” (The Weekly Standard on Fidel; Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant.)
For the 89th Sunday in a row, members of the Las Damas de Blanco were denied their universal rights, beaten, and at least 50 members of the group were arrested.
Cuba’s Ladies In White Report 50 Arrests This Sunday
14ymedio, Havana, 19 February 2017 — Some fifty Ladies in White were detained this Sunday on the Island, according to members of that dissident organization.
Former political prisoner and regime opponent Angel Moya told 14ymedio by phone that Berta Soler had been arrested by members of a State Security operation and the police surrounding her Lawton house. The incident happened shortly after three in the afternoon on Sunday, when Soler left the movement’s site in the company of the Lady in White Danaysi Munoz.
Moya added that in Havana the Ladies in White Yordanka Santana and Norma Cruz were “abandoned to their fate*” on the ExpoCuba and Cotorro highways respectively, after being released. According to the same source, as of 6:00 in the evening 23 Ladies in White had been arrested in the capital, although that number could be increased by some “who still haven’t called in.”
Moya also reported on a Lady in White detained in Bayamo and eight in Palma Soriano, while in Matanzas there were 22. In that locality Leticia Ramos and Marisol Fernandez were arrested twice in a single day and he said that the whereabouts of both women was still unknown.
The opponent also reported that from the province of Ciego te Avila Lucia Lopez complained that she was “beaten at the time of her arrest” by State Security agents and “stripped of her blouse and bra before being released,” in a “clear act of indignity,” said Moya.
Lucía Lopez was “beaten at the time of her arrest” by agents of the State Security and “stripped of her blouse and bra”
Meanwhile, Iván Hernández Carrillo reported from his Twitter account of the arrest in the city of Cárdenas of Odalis Hernandez, Hortensia Alfonso, Cira de la Vega and Mercedes de la Guardia. Likewise, from Columbus the activist denounced the arrest of his mother Asunción Carrillo and Caridad Burunate when they were on their way to the church.
At two o’clock on Sunday afternoon, minutes before being detained, the leader of the Ladies in White women’s movement, Berta Soler, informed the media that there were already more than twenty detained in Havana to “prevent them from reaching the site.” She mentioned that two of them were “released on the road to Pinar del Rio*,” despite living in the capital. “Since last Wednesday morning there has been a constant [State Security and Police] operation outside,” the organization’s headquarters.
She also mentioned the particular case of Berta Lucrecia Martínez, who was detained at noon hours after a solo protest in Calabazar Park. According to the information that Soler has received, the activist stood for “more than 35 minutes” with a poster regarding Human Rights and shouting anti-government slogans.
“Last year 9,940 arbitrary detentions were recorded, a figure that “places the Government of Cuba in the first place in all Latin America”
Lucrecia Martinez is one of the Ladies in White who has repeatedly been prevented from attending Sunday Mass or reaching the headquarters of his organization. Until the moment of not knowing the place to where it was led by the police patrol that stopped it.
Calabazar park is a very busy wifi area. As reported to this newspaper by the activist Agustín López Canino, many people “filmed and photographed the moment of protest.”
Last year, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) documented a total of 9,940 arbitrary detentions, a figure that “places the Government of Cuba in first place in all of Latin America” ??at the head of such arrests, according to a report by the independent organization.
*Translator’s note: Cuban police/State Security often arrest dissidents and drive them a long way outside the city where they are arrested and then put them out of the car in the “middle of nowhere,” to find their own way home.
Fernando Ravsberg, a stringer for the BBC in Cuba, has a blog “Letters from Cuba,” in which he occasionally mentions that the Castro Kingdom is far from perfect.
In a recent piece, for instance, Ravsberg highlighted some of the problems that plague the public transportation system in Cuba.
It’s really mild criticism, as one would expect. But the goons who run the Castro Kingdom don’t like any kind of criticism, even of the milder sort.
So, you know how it goes…. no need, really, to explain what has happened to Mr. Ravsberg…. Pow!
He has been reprimanded in a very impolite way. Some Castronoid warned that if he keeps writing negative pieces, he might lose his teeth.
He has reacted to threats against him by publishing details about those threats.
What he reveals ain’t pretty. Vintage Castronoid intimidation.
So, it seems that Mr. Ravsberg is now being treated like a Cuban rather than as a foreigner.
He still thinks that those who are threatening him are “extremists.”
No, sorry, Mr. Ravsberg, the goons who are threatening you are not “extremists.” No, not at all. They’re giving voice to the normal modus operandi of Castro, Inc. They’re the status quo.
Your problem right now is that you are getting of taste of the real Cuba and are being subjected to the same kind of repression as 99% of the people who live on the island.
Here is what Mr. Ravsberg has to say about his recent close encounter with reality:
They have threatened to break my teeth if I keep writing
Various “revolutionary” blogs such as La Mala Palabra, Cuba por Siempre, and Isla Mía have posted a piece by someone named Félix Edmundo Díaz which includes a very strong threats against me.
Here is a transcription:
“I want to send a message to a colleague: Fernan, that is, Fernando Ravsberg: Do you really think you can live in Cuba and rant against my people? Don’t you think it’s time that you go to Hell (pa’l coño de tu madre ) and start to write “Letters from the USA” or “Letters from Spain” instead of “Letters from Cuba”? Why don’t you go visit Uribe or Peña Nieto and write “Letters from Colombia” or “Letters from México”?, so you can run into some “paramilitary” guardian or some “zeta” gangster who will kick you in the groin and send your balls flying out of your ears… Here in Cuba you write with impunity because you know no one is going to kidnap you, or disappear you, or torture or kill you, but we here have the obligation to prevent you from ranting on our soil. So, my offer to you is simple: Leave Cuba or start speaking well (hablar fino). Keep in mind that at your age you won’t be able to grow any new teeth, and that dental implants are very expensive.”
… This text proves that extremist elements in Cuba are feeling empowered.
I’m convinced that if the Cuban government doesn’t restrain these extremists, the next step will be to turn threats into actions, which is the the way in which extremists on the left and the right tend to act: They want you to silence yourself out of fear of being violently silenced by them.
Read the whole thing in Spanish HERE.
Dr. Eduardo Cardet’s trial –which was set for Monday February 20 — has been postponed indefinitely.
His wife Yaimaris Vecino was informed of the postponement this past Friday night by the lawyer appointed to this case by the Castro regime.
“We don’t know when he’ll be tried,” said his wife.
Cardet has been in prison since November 30, when he was arrested and brutally beaten.
This is how the justice system works in Castrogonia. Justice is whatever the Castro regime deems just.
King Louis XIV of France was fond of saying “L’etat c’est moi‘ (‘I am the state’). King Raul loves to say that too, pronouncing it Letá se muá.
But one refrain is not enough for King Raul of Castrogonia. So he prefers to add another one: “La loi c’est moi” (I am the law)… or as Raul would most likely pronounce it, La luá se muá.
One can only assume that this trial postponement has something to do with the fuss raised over Cardet’s case by Amnesty International.
Pope Francis might be involved too. Cardet’s father sent a special plea to the Holy Father. But….don’t get your hopes up…. given Papa Che’s political leanings, it’s hard to imagine that he’s chastising King Raul for his naughtiness.
For the full story, go HERE to Marti Noticias.
Remembering Bartolomé Maximiliano Moré, (24 August 1919 – 19 February 1963), who died 54 years ago today. His beautiful Como Fue is one the first Cuban songs I remember hearing, and to this day I love listening to it, and enjoy the memories it stirs of a seemingly more pleasant bygone era.
As Silvio previously wrote, “He was only 43 and a victim of cirrhosis of the liver.
More’s music is found in every Cuban household in the US. I remember that my parents ordered some Beny More LP’s when we finally got a record player in Wisconsin. More’s music was exactly what my parents needed to survive those cold Wisconsin winters.
He started singing as a young man and eventually joined Perez Prado, the big Cuban orchestra of the 1950’s. More eventually started his own band and enjoyed tremendous success until his death.
The bad news is that he died young. The good news is that he left a huge archive of music and much of it is available in the US”.
Cuban-American’s continue to voice opposition to Obama’s failed Cuba policy.
“Numerous Cuban activists have been murdered by the regime during Obama’s tenure in office. However, the systematic butchery taking place in Cuba had no visible effect on Obama.”
By Daisy B. Peñaloz inThe Bakersfield Californian:
Community Voices: Obama’s Cuba legacy is a sorry one
Former President Obama’s revocation of the “wet foot/dry foot” policy would have been a welcome change were it not for the fact that he violated yet another U.S. law — the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act — in the process.
“Wet foot/dry foot,” the brainchild of the Clinton administration, was a 1995 amendment to the Cuban Adjustment Act that sought to accomplish two objectives: Pacify the Castro dictatorship and discourage the hazardous migration of Cuban rafters crossing the Florida Straits. The ill-conceived measure did not achieve the desired effect. Thousands of Cubans continued to migrate undeterred by the risks.
After Obama’s normalization with the dictatorship on Dec. 17, 2014, Cubans realized that the U.S. government, instead of promoting freedom, was now collaborating with a corrupt regime in the pursuit of profit. Human rights had ceased to be a priority. Hope was extinguished for many Cubans. Consequently, another mass exodus ensued, propelling an estimated 100,000 Cubans to the United States in just two years.
The intent of the Cuban Adjustment Act was to facilitate the entry of political refugees into U.S. society without the customary required visa. Cuba remains a suffocating totalitarian police state. Its citizens, deprived of liberty and agency, are incessantly persecuted, imprisoned and murdered. Obama’s normalization did nothing to erase that fact.
Absent “wet foot/dry foot,” the Cuban Adjustment Act once again became whole, and all its inherent legal powers were restored and enabled. In typical fashion, Obama, through executive order and without congressional approval, violated the CAA by declaring Cuban refugees without visas inadmissible. Expressing concern for Middle Eastern refugees, while rejecting victims of totalitarianism 105 miles from U.S. shores, smacks of hypocrisy.
The repeal of the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program, which gave U.S. sanctuary to trafficked and exploited Cuban doctors, was another casualty of Obama’s unhealthy obsession with the Castro brothers. Living in squalor, Cuban medical personnel — the majority of their wages garnished by the regime — were reduced to slave labor in host nations. Obama’s dictatorial executive orders, rather than inspiring confidence, further weakened and undermined our republic and the ability to succor victims of human trafficking.
Callous indifference to the suffering of Cuba’s political prisoners, pro-democracy groups, dissidents and exiles will be Obama’s most sorrowful and grievous legacy. During the escalation of repression in Cuba and abroad, the Obama administration remained mute and unresponsive.
Ironically, the Castros’ tactics of censorship surfaced at a Washington, D.C., press conference acknowledging the opening of the Cuban embassy. On that occasion, Cuban activist Rosa María Payá, daughter of murdered dissident Oswaldo Payá, was threatened by a State Department spokesperson with expulsion if she asked a question or commented.
Obama’s myriad of unlawful concessions to the dictatorship, without any meaningful reciprocation, have exacted a human cost. The Ladies in White are routinely beaten and arrested. They are subjected to 24-hour surveillance and hounded by organized mobs. “I will never forget what they did to me,” said Aliuska Gómez, recalling the day she was arbitrarily detained, stripped, and thrown naked into a filthy prison cell, prior to Obama’s official visit to Cuba. Hoping to keep a school destined for closure open, Sirley Ávila León appealed to Cuban officials without success. For her efforts, she was attacked with a machete by a Castro thug who severed her hand and inflicted serious wounds to the rest of her body.
Numerous Cuban activists have been murdered by the regime during Obama’s tenure in office. However, the systematic butchery taking place in Cuba had no visible effect on Obama. Although unlikely given its populist leanings, the Trump administration should uphold current U.S. laws such as the Helms-Burton Act and the Cuban Adjustment Act until the Castro regime abides by its requirements. Government leaders must send a clear, unequivocal message to global allies that the United States still values freedom, justice and respect for human rights.
Political refugees fleeing Cuban totalitarianism merit the protections of the Cuban Adjustment Act and should not be returned to Cuba. Lacking legitimacy and concrete, positive results, Obama’s Cuba policy has failed. It is not too late to make things right.
Daisy B. Peñaloza of Bakersfield is a preschool teacher. She left communist Cuba on a 1967 Freedom Flight.
Originally posted in Notes From the Cuban Exile Quarter:
Dear President Higgins,
Mr. President I have followed your visit to Cuba with great interest upon learning that human rights would be part of the dialogue during your stay. Only to be disappointed by what appeared in the press and your past praise for Fidel Castro. Cuba has suffered under a totalitarian communist dictatorship for 58 years. The Castro regime has demonstrated over that time a complete disdain for human rights including conditioning both access to healthcare and education to loyalty for the dictatorship.
I would hope that in your continuing conversations with General Raul Castro that you request that physician, family man, Christian Democrat and Amnesty International designated prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet Concepción be freed. Even outside of political considerations both education and healthcare leave a lot to be desired in Cuba despite the government propaganda.
I would also hope that you raise the plight of 24 year old David Mauri Cardoso, a student expelled from the University of Cienfuegos in Cuba a few days ago after he honestly answered politically loaded questions in what was supposed to be a Spanish literature exam.
Next week February 24th marks 21 years since the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down when two civilian planes were blown out of international airspace by Cuban MiGs on Fidel Castro‘s and General Raul Castro’s orders in an act of state terrorism. Four men were killed and two of them were friends of mine and the day still resonates with me.
There are thousands of other cases of extrajudicial executions carried out by the Cuban dictatorship. They still go on and within that context to claim that the Castro dictatorship has a “commitment” to human rights falsely legitimizes the regime while ignoring the victims.
Please speak up for David and Edward they can still be helped.
For decades, religious expression in Cuba was suppressed, Christmas banned. In 1991, atheism as a prerequisite for communist party membership was lifted, although one could argue that this new tolerance of religious practice was for political reasons.
Castro’s War on Religion:
“From the moment that Castro took hold in January 1959, churches were in trouble. The regime quickly launched a propaganda campaign against the faithful, describing Catholics as “social scum.” By the late 1960s, Christmas was banned on the island. Churches were shut down. Priests and their parishioners were silenced, arrested or placed under tight surveillance, with every word of every service or homily monitored by government church-watchers infiltrating the pews. Any criticism, especially of the Marxist regime, was very dangerous. One could not be a member of the Communist Party in Cuba (the only party legally permitted, including for any government jobs) without professing a belief in atheism.”
Today, religious faith of various denominations is practiced in Cuba, but not freely, as religious oppression is a fact of life in modern Cuba.
The Untold Cuba
Everyday life in the face of oppression
Paradise beaches, colourful streets, beautiful architecture and classic cars cruising the capital’s streets. This, for many, is Cuba.
But tucked away on this Caribbean island are hundreds of untold stories.
Stories of ordinary people building lives, families, careers and church communities – in the stark reality of repression under Cuba’s communist government. From their lives come stories of threats of eviction, harassment, imprisonment, beatings and unfair criminal charges.
This is the untold Cuba…
You’ll find Rafael and Maria’s house nestled in a rural part of Cuba’s countryside. In fact, it’s so rural they have no internet connection. One afternoon as these two church leaders were listening to a sermon on DVD, security agents came to their home and arrested them.
They were imprisoned for two days with no visitors and were fined around £125.
The reason? They were taking part in ‘forbidden activities’ – listening to a sermon on DVD – during the period of mourning for Fidel Castro. People who know the couple believe that the government was just looking for an opportunity to bring a case against them.
When Berta [leader of dissident group Las Damas De Blanco] leaves her house on a Sunday morning, she’s one of thousands of women who do so wondering if they’ll reach their destination. Every week women linked to the Ladies in White – a group of peaceful protesters – are arrested to stop them going to church.
They’re often violently detained, interrogated, and in some cases are beaten.
Berta was arrested when she tried to go to a midweek Mass just before Christmas. The state security agents told her, “[Government agents] will not let you nor any Lady in White attend Mass on any day.” For Berta, and hundreds of other women like her, their arrest doesn’t just stop them from attending church services but isolates them from their church community.
Yiorvis is carrying on the work his uncle passed onto him – leading one of the fastest-growing Protestant networks of churches in Cuba. With that work comes ownership of the family home – which also happens to be the headquarters of the movement.
Three years ago Yiorvis and his family were threatened with eviction, and the government nullified ownership of his home.
Unless Yiorvis asked for permission to do any church activities, paid rent to the government and acknowledged the government as the actual owner of the property, he would lose his church and family home. Yiorvis stood his ground. Since then, he’s been threatened with eviction again, prevented from travelling outside Cuba and been accused of being in debt to the government for unpaid rent.
Juan Carlos faces an impossible choice: stop leading your church or go to prison. He’s just been ordered to leave his job as church leader and find work for the state. If he doesn’t comply, he faces a prison sentence.
The man who took many of these photos, Carlos Lamelas, was imprisoned for four months on false human trafficking charges. He’s a church leader as well as a talented photographer, and the Cuba he captures is one of beauty, colour and vibrancy.
It’s the Cuba he loves and the Cuba we must protect.
For Rafael, Maria, Berta and Juan Carlos, this is their home. But sadly, it’s a home that falls short in giving its citizens the rights they are owed.
And as long as this continues, their stories must be heard.
We’ve heard a lot about the media’s problems. However, the media’s credibility problems did not begin today. The Gallup polls about the media tell you the same story over the last few years:
Love him or hate him, President Trump was correct when he told the media this week that the people do not believe them. In fact, they trust him a bit more, according to another poll.
Polls aside, anecdotal evidence confirms that the public does not really trust the media. Have you met anybody who thinks the media are truthful? Have you really?
The media have themselves to blame here, and it really goes back to 2008 when they jumped on the Obama bandwagon. It was like watching a bunch of teen girls at a Donny Osmond concert.
Yes, the media bias got Senator Obama elected and President Obama re-elected. The media got their man but lost a significant chunk of the nation watching reporters too eager to accept whatever story the White House was peddling.
Will the media get their credibility back?
I don’t know but they can start by bringing a little bit more fairness to their coverage.