Watching a documentary about Hungary ’56 reminded me of our Cuban experience

We Cubans have a special place in our hearts for anyone who stood up to communism.

A few days ago, I had a chance to see a documentary about Hungary 1956.  It was the the story of Soviet tanks crushing the democratic aspirations of the people of Hungary.

It made me think of Cuba:  the refugees, unaccompanied children sent to freedom, people being processed at camps and the freedom that we found in the US or other lands.

I wrote a post at American Thinker today remembering November 1956:

“It was a long time ago but the bravery of the Hungarian people is worth remembering.

I am a strong believer in reminding the younger generation that freedom is not cheap. In fact, many have paid the ultimate price to fight for it.

Many Hungarians did this month in 1956!

Before Prague 1968 or Poland 1980, there was Hungary, one of the great chapters of human valor of the 20th century.”

We salute the brave people of Hungary and how they fought for freedom 57 years ago:

A few thoughts about Che

Our friend Humberto Fontova posted a great story about Che.

I loved that he referred to Che as a “….cowardly, murdering swine….”

Thumbs up to Humberto for one of the very best descriptions that I’ve ever heard of that swine named Che!

I sent my sons, nieces and other young friends a copy of the post.

I told them to read it and challenge the next person who comes into their college circles wearing a Che shirt.   Within seconds, one of my very pretty nieces wrote back:

“Luckily I haven’t seen any Che hipsters.  They know better than to wear those shirts around me….”

Thank God for a niece like that!

Humberto’s post also reminded me of my uncle’s encounter with Che in 1959.  My uncle passed away in 2008 and was a great source of information and stories about those early days of what was called “la revolucion”.  He was an architect in Cuba and attended The University of Havana in the turbulent 1950’s.  He was there and recalls the lively debates about the future of Cuba in the classrooms of the university.

My uncle said that he felt very pessimistic about Cuba when he met Che in the early days.

His words were like this:

“I knew that we were in deep trouble when I saw Che waving a pistol and bragging about himself.”

Tio Pepe’s words stayed with me and I think of them whenever Che comes into the conversation.

Let me paraphrase Humberto:  Che met justice that day in Bolivia.

Yes he did!

We are grateful to those Bolivian peasants who turned him in.  They saw the same charlatan in Che that my uncle did in the early days of “la revolucion”.

My message is blunt:  Anyone who wears a Che shirt is stupid, ignorant or a swine like Che!

The Ladies in White win the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent


The 2013 Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent Awarded to Ali Ferzat, Park Sang Hak, and the Ladies in White

NEW YORK (May 3, 2012)- The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) today announced the recipients of the Václav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent. The 2013 laureates are: Syrian cartoonist Ali Ferzat, North Korean democracy activist Park Sang Hak, and Cuban civil society group the Ladies in White—represented by their leader Berta Soler. They will be honored at a ceremony during the 2013 Oslo Freedom Forum in Norway on May 15.

An initiative of New York-based HRF, the Havel Prize for Creative Dissent was founded with the enthusiastic endorsement of Dagmar Havlová, widow of the late poet, playwright, and statesman Václav Havel. The inaugural laureates were Chinese artist Ai Weiwei, Saudi women’s rights advocate Manal al-Sharif, and Burmese opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.

Ali Ferzat is a Syrian political cartoonist known for his satirical caricatures. Ferzat’s cartoons became increasingly critical of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and the brutality of the regime’s crackdown. In 2011, masked gunmen detained Ferzat and broke both of his hands and his fingers, a clear message of intimidation and retaliation for his work. Ferzat recovered from the attack and continues to produce political cartoons.

Park Sang Hak, a North Korean defector and human rights activist, has worked for the democratization of his homeland since a daring escape in 1999. He is the chairman of Fighters for a Free North Korea, an organization that uses helium balloons to transmit human rights and pro-democracy literature, DVDs, USB drives, and transistor radios from South Korea into North Korea.

The Ladies in White (“Las Damas de Blanco”) is a Cuban civil society organization founded by the wives, sisters, mothers, and daughters of political prisoners jailed during the Castro regime’s “Black Spring” crackdown in 2003. “Las Damas de Blanco” wear white to symbolize their commitment to non-violence. Despite repeated arrests and beatings by Cuban authorities, the group marches every Sunday in Havana to protest the lack of human rights under the Castro dictatorship. Berta Soler has led the group since the death of founder Laura Pollán in 2011. Soler will accept the award on the group’s behalf.

The three Havel Prize laureates will receive an artist’s representation of the “Goddess of Democracy,” the iconic statue erected by Chinese student leaders during the Tiananmen Square protests of June, 1989. Each sculpture embodies the spirit and literal reality of creative dissent at its finest, representing the struggle of truth and beauty against brute power. The Havel Prize laureates will also share a prize of 350,000 Norwegian Kroner.

The Havel Prize is funded jointly by grants from the Brin Wojcicki Foundation and the Thiel Foundation. The Brin Wojcicki Foundation was established by Sergey Brin, co-founder of Google, and his wife Anne Wojcicki, co-founder of 23andMe, a leading personal genetics company. The Thiel Foundation, established and funded by entrepreneur and venture capitalist Peter Thiel, defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions: political, personal, and economic. Vaclav Havel was chairman of HRF from 2009 until his death in December of 2011.

The Havel Prize ceremony will be broadcast live online at beginning at 4:00pm Central European Time on Wednesday, May 15. The event will take place at Oslo’s Christiania Theater. Registration is open to the public—email for more information.

New Cuba Sage: “I done turned Havana into Atlanta”


Last week it was the tale of two black women in Cuba. This week it’s the tale of two rappers.

Well, that was fast, huh? You wrote a real good rap song, real good rap song, Jay-Z.

It’s all about his trip to Cuba and his transforming and enlightening experiences there. Must’ve wrote it on the flight back to the USA. I guess Jay-Z got some eye-opening educating in that whole “Cuba education exchange” trip he and his wife made last week. And now he’s a big Cuba expert educating the rest of us on the truth. Some real prolific observations down in those lyrics

Rapper Jay-Z released a new track Thursday in which he boasts about his recent trip to Cuba with superstar Beyoncé and says that President Barack Obama told him he’d get him “impeached.”

“I done turned Havana into Atlanta,” Jay-Z raps in “Open Letter,” which he released Thursday. “[…] Boy from the hood, I got White House clearance… Politicians never did s—- for me except lie to me, distort history… They wanna give me jail time and a fine. Fine, let me commit a real crime.”

He later raps: “Hear the freedom in my speech… Obama said, ‘Chill you gonna get me impeached. You don’t need this s—- anyway, chill with me on the beach.’”

“I’m in Cuba, I love Cubans. This communist talk is so confusing,” Jay-Z raps on the track, which is produced by Timbaland and Swizz Beatz and goes on to reference the Bob Dylan song “Idiot Wind.” “[…] ‘Idiot Wind,’ the Bob Dylan of rap music. You’re an idiot, baby, you should’ve become a student. Oh, you gonna learn today.”

I guess Jay-Z is feeling some political dissident pressure after the trip … or something.

It’s just too damn bad Cuban dissident rapper Angel Yunier Remon Arzuaga had to misbehave and diss the castro government in his lyrics or he could be listening to the new fantastic release Jay-Z will be making lots of money off of. Ain’t no radio or internet in castro’s prisons, Angel. Hell, brother, ya coulda been chillin’ on the beach with Jay-Z. But no-o-o-o-o…

A man of honor

There are few men and women who will risk everything to be free. Vladimir Bukovsky, Soviet dissident, who turned 70 last Sunday, is one of those. Our own brothers and sisters in Cuba who oppose tyranny, living or killed by the regime are our modern day Bukovskys, Solzhenitzyns, Sakharovs, and Sharanskys in Cuba. We need many more of them.

Vladimir Bukovsky does not like to be called a politician, preferring to be known as a neurophysiologist, writer or, at the very least, civic activist. In truth, he never engaged in politics: he merely realized, at an early age, that he could not reconcile himself to live quietly with a criminal and mendacious regime that sought to make millions of people its silent accomplices. Bukovsky’s protest was a moral one. “We did not play politics, we did not draft programs for the ‘people’s liberation,’” he recalls in his memoirs, To Build a Castle (a must-read for anyone interested in Russian history). “Our only weapon was glasnost (openness). Not propaganda, but glasnost, so that no one could say ‘I did not know.’ The rest is a matter for each person’s conscience.”

“I did not know” was a popular answer among members of the older generation when asked by the youngsters of the 1950s about Stalin’s times. The public condemnation of Stalinist crimes at the 1956 Communist Party congress and (almost immediately) the brutal suppression of the Hungarian revolution, which showed that the nature of the regime has not changed, were formative events for Bukovsky. His protest activity began literally during his school days: he joined a clandestine anti-Soviet group and published an underground satirical journal. In response, he was expelled from school, summoned to a dressing-down by the Moscow City Communist Party Committee, and barred from studying at university (he nevertheless won admission to Moscow State University, only to be discovered and expelled a year later.)

Vladimir Bukovsky is one of the founders of the Soviet dissident movement, which was born in the fall of 1960 on Moscow’s Mayakovsky Square. There, a group of yet-unknown young activists, poets, and actors (including Yuri Galanskov, Eduard Kuznetsov, Vladimir Osipov, Ilya Bokshtein, and Vsevolod Abdulov) held public readings of banned poetry – Akhmatova, Pasternak, Mandelshtam, Tsvetaeva. They also read from their own works and the works of their contemporaries, which would soon be disseminated as samizdat (literally “self-publications,” the clandestine reproduction and distribution of banned literature). Samizdat, too, was born on Mayakovsky Square. The authorities responded in their usual manner: with dispersals of the meetings by bulldozers and snow ploughs; provocations by Komsomol (Young Communist League) operatives; beatings and arrests. Yet the “seditious” meetings continued in the heart of the Soviet capital for almost two years […]

Remembering Laura Pollan and the Ladies in White

Laura, in her own words on why the Ladies in White are out on the street, “We cannot allow our men, our families to be destroyed. We cannot allow them to die in prison.”

I will always remember Laura Pollan. This inspiring lady, wife, mother, and teacher, never imagined that she would become a political activist. In 2003, her husband, journalist Hector Maseda Gutierrez, along with 74 others were rounded up and arrested in what became known as the Cuban Black Spring, La Primavera Negra. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “counter revolutionary” activities. As she struggled to find information on her husband she met other women relatives of the 74; their meetings were the beginning of the Ladies in White. Their quiet dignity, marching to make sure that their men would not be forgotten, standing up against increasing threats and violent repression, how could you not be inspired by these brave women standing alone against the power of the state armed only with gladiolas?

The murderous Castro regime has many ways to rid themselves of unwanted dissidents, murder by neglect, auto accidents, and perhaps injection. Many unanswered questions remain surrounding the death of Laura Pollan. If there was nothing to hide, why did they arrest Hablamos Press journalist Rios Otero?

Human Rights Foundation YouTube:

The valiant Las Damas de Blanco, Laura Pollan’s brave Ladies in White, led by Berta Solar, continue their mission without her, in spite of increasing violent repression against them. Today, October 14, is the anniversary of Laura’s death, please remember her.

Imprisoned Ladies in White Sonia Garro Receiving Death Threats

Prayers for Sonia Garro’s health and safety

Sonia Garro, a female pro-democracy activist and member of the Ladies in White, was imprisoned on March 18th of this year.

According to Garro’s sister, she has been receiving numerous death threats at the women’s prison of “El Guatao”, where she remains incarcerated without charges or trial.

She was originally arrested in the wave of repression against dissidents prior to Pope Benedict XVI’s trip.

Castro’s secret police stormed her home, shot her in the leg with rubber bullets and dragged her away.

More “reform” you can’t believe in.

A remarkable victory for the Cuban democracy movement

Cuban pro-democracy leaders Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antunez”, and 26 others, faced off with the repressive Castro machine and won.

Capitol Hill Cubans:

A Victory for the Hunger Strikers

 The Castro regime has just released Cuban pro-democracy activist Jorge Vazquez Chaviano, whose unjust prison term had ended over a week ago.

As such, after 21 days on hunger strike demanding Vazquez Chaviano’s release, Cuban pro-democracy leaders Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, Jorge Luis García Pérez “Antunez” and 26 others have ended their protest.

A remarkable victory for the Cuban democracy movement.


No Fidel, history will not absolve you

Watching the Republican National Convention this evening; listening to the speeches, I at times found myself wiping away tears caused by a gut wrenching response to words affirming our great America experiment in a government of the people, and by the people.  I cry easily, I know some might think it corny, but I’m the daughter of an anti-Communist WWII veteran. I love and hold a profound appreciation for our process, the American process wherein every four years, we the people go to the polls and choose our president. What an astounding privilege in the history of human kind this is.  No apologies here, this breaks me up.

I believe that the Free Republic of Cuba, the wonderful Cuba that all of us here at Babalú dream of, and carry in our hearts, no matter how unrealistic that dream may be, was achieved by the blood and sacrifice of generations of Cubans who carried the very same God inspired purpose in their hearts as America’s Founding Fathers, freedom from tyranny, liberty, libertad.  We all know that freedom is not free, that it is paid for by the hard work, sacrifice, and blood of every generation.

On this night, while I watch democracy in action here,  I’m rembering that this is our fourteenth  presidential election since Castro gained power in Cuba in 1959.  We freely voted in 1960, 1964, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and now, in 2012.  A lifetime.   I remember all those elections, as well as the 1956 election when I was just a small child.  In all that time, there has not been a free election in Cuba.  Imagine that.  Yet so-called experts, and “humanitarians”  praise the “achievements” of the “revolution”.   They do so oblivious to Cuba’s decline,  oblivious to Cuba as a state sponsor of terror, oblivious to the mass executions and exile, oblivious to Cuba’s position on Genocide Watch, oblivious to the decades of Cuba’s political prisoners listed as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, and the testimony of Cuban survivors now living in freedom.  How is it possible, that these murderous tyrants are sill in power after 53 years?   Castro seized power just 14 years after the end of WWII, and the apparent triumph of good over evil.  How is it possible that this dictator was allowed to take over our neighbor just 90 miles from our southern shore,  and here we are 53 years later and they are still in power?  A neighbor by the way whose women gave their wedding rings and other jewels in support of our revolution.  A neighbor whose sons fought along side ours in war.   I am horrified by what is happening in Cuba, and by the lack of real  interest in Washington.  If the U.S. supports freedom, then it far past the time for an appropriate response  from any American administration.  Don’t talk about it,  just get it done. 

Repression reigns in Cuba.  There has been much talk of reforms in Cuba, but talk is cheap and meaningless without proof of action.  There is no real reform,  not when the regime  models itself after Nazi Germany, and once again, humanity is squashed and freely written words are burned on the pyre of repressive  evil.

From Capitol Hill Cubans:

Public Bonfires for Dissident’s Documents

at 6:28 PM Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Yesterday, the Castro regime arrested Cuban pro-democracy leader and former political prisoner Angel Moya.

His crime?

Distributing copies of a document entitled, “Citizens’ Demand for Another Cuba,” which advocates for Cuba’s adherence to the U.N.’s Civil and Political Rights covenants and to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is the same document that was being distributed by three dissidents (Diosbel Suárez, Idalberto Acuña and Santiago Cardoso) on August 16th, when they were brutally beaten, arrested and doused with pepper gas.

Now, the Castro regime is preparing public bonfires to burn the copies of this document and other papers confiscated from dissidents.

Sadly predictable

“Defecating on Fidel Castro’s Mother”

Capitol Hill Cubans:

Cuban pro-democracy activists Gertrudis Ojeda Suárez and Yoandris Ricardo Mir are each facing two-year prison sentences.

Their crime?

Defecating on Fidel Castro’s mother.”

No joke. That’s what the official documents stated at a judicial proceeding against them in the eastern town of Banes.

The truth is that the couple hung anti-Castro signs outside their home.

This resulted in a harassment campaign against them and their three children, with tar thrown at their home, and now a two-year prison sentence.

Ojeda is a member of the Ladies in White.