Friday, October 28, 2016

Why Cuba should not be on the UN Human Rights Council

What the regime claims and some of the facts in evidence not mentioned 
Yuri Valle Roca, arrested by Cuban police on International Human Rights Day 2015
The totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba is undertaking to return to the United Nations Human Rights Council with a campaign pledge completely at odds with the regime's human rights record. The vote will be taking place later today at the United Nations.

In light of all the falsehoods and omissions a few facts placed in historical context are needed for the sake of the historical record.

First it is important to mention that during Cuba's democratic spring that lasted from the free elections of 1940 until a 1952 coup the island nation played a historic role in advancing regional and international human rights first at the Organization of American States and later at the United Nations with the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Tragically, the revolutionary communist regime of the Castro brothers over the past 57 years has done everything possible to undermine and destroy this legacy. Below is a partial accounting of the "great importance" the Castro dictatorship has attached to human rights:
The Castro regime had been one of the few voices applauding the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre in China congratulating them for "defeating the counterrevolutionary acts."

On March 28, 2008 the Castro regime’s delegation together with the Organization of Islamic Congress (OIC) successfully passed resolutions undermining international freedom of expression standards at the United Nations Human Rights Council.

On February 2, 2009 during the Universal Periodic Review of China the Cuban Ambassador, Juan Antonio Fernandez Palacios encouraged the Chinese regime to repress human rights defenders in China with more firmness.

On May 28, 2009 amidst a human rights crisis in Sri Lanka the Cuban government's diplomats took the lead and successfully blocked efforts to address the wholesale slaughter there.

On August 23, 2011 the Cuban government along with China, Russia and Ecuador voted against investigating gross and systematic human rights violations in Syria. 

On March 17, 2014 the UN Human Rights Council “was divided” in its discussion of the atrocities in North Korea between those who want the case to be elevated to the International Criminal Court and those who reject outright the existence of a commission of inquiry and conclusions. The Castro regime vigorously defended the North Korean regime and denounced the inquiry.

On March 21, 2014 at the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Castro dictatorship again applauded the human rights record of the People's Republic of China, and voted to block the effort of human rights defenders to hold a moment of silence for Cao Shunli. She was an activist who had tried to participate in China’s Universal Periodic Review, but was detained at the airport trying to get on a flight to attend the current session  and accused of "picking quarrels and provoking troubles." Within three months in detention and being denied medical care Cao Shunli died on March 14, 2014.
 The Castro regime has worked tirelessly to undermine human rights standards worldwide and collaborated with some of the worse regimes in the world with such effectiveness that the end result has been human rights in decline for over a decade world wide.

UN Watch, a watchdog group based in Geneva Switzerland, has called attention to some of the more absurd claims made by the Castro regime to get back on the Human Rights Council such as:
  • Cuba attaches the “greatest importance” to international cooperation for the “promotion and protection” of all human rights within the United Nations
  • Cuba reaffirms its readiness to “continue working tirelessly” to achieve the shared goal of “enabling all individuals and peoples” throughout the world to “enjoy all human rights”
  • Cuban women and men have made “significant progress” in the “enjoyment of all their human rights.”
  • The Cuban people are the “masters of their political fate” and the country’s resources, exercise the “fullest power and control over the country’s life”, and “participate actively” in the “effective system of democracy” that they designed and approved in a universal plebiscite.
The campaign pledge also includes this line:
  • “In October 2007, [Cuba] received the Special Rapporteur on the right to food.”
This was a sham visit by UNHRC official Jean Ziegler, founder of the “Mummar Qaddafi Human Rights Prize,” and a notorious apologist for the Castro regime.
The Castro regime omits any mention of the invitation it extended on January 28, 2009 to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak, an individual who had been extremely critical of the United States highlighting abuses in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. This invitation was reaffirmed publicly at the UN Human Rights Council in February of 2009 by Cuba's so-called "Minister of Justice." The international press ate it up. I was there and saw the propaganda circus in full swing.

However seven years later with Mr. Nowak long gone and his successor Juan Mendez there since 2010 has not been able to visit the island. Worse yet back in 2009 because of the non-invitation invitation an opportunity was lost visit another country to examine torture claims.

In his final year as Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak addressed the failure of the Cuban government to permit his visit to the island in 2010:
“I regret that in spite of its clear invitation, the Government of Cuba has not allowed me to objectively assess the situation of torture and ill-treatment in the country by collecting first-hand evidence from all available sources.”
Not only did the Castro regime deny an examination of the situation of torture in Cuba, but in occupying the rapporteur in this game another country was potentially denied a visit that would have also helped other peoples.

Even on social and economic rights the Castro regime is a mess, but thanks to an efficient propaganda apparatus and manufactured statistics it has managed to sell the lie that it is some sort of medical and educational super power to the point that the President of the United States has repeated the false narrative. The facts on the ground say otherwise.

Education in Cuba lacks resources and instructors but even in the past when massive subsidies made it more workable it was aimed more at indoctrination and purging those students who were not ideologically pure.

The same holds true with healthcare in Cuba. Medical neglect led to scores of psychiatric patients dying of exposure and hypothermia in 2010. Arresting medical doctors and independent journalists to cover up epidemics should concern not only tourists but also their respective countries. Furthermore the case of Cuban dissident Sirley Avila Leon in 2015 who was not only denied adequate medical care but was prescribed treatment worsening her condition following a machete attack ordered by state security.  This practice goes back decades and has cost the life of more than one human rights defender.

The Castro regime claims in its campaign pledge that Cubans are “masters of their political fate” and “participate actively” in an “effective system of democracy” that they designed and approved in a universal plebiscite. This ignores what Fidel Castro told Barbara Walters in 2002: "Yes they [Cubans] have the right to petition, but not to change the Constitution."Brave Cubans who pursued the objective of a plebiscite through legal channels in what is known as Project Varela ended up being subjected to Stalinist show trials in the Spring of 2003 and many years in prison. The man who led the effort Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, died together with Harold Cepero Escalante under suspicious circumstances in what appears to have been an extrajudicial killing carried out by Castro's secret police on July 22, 2012 who forced them off the road.

Despite the claims of the Castro dictatorship the reality is that Cubans who want to be "masters of their political fate" in Cuba are risking harassment, beatings, imprisonment, torture and being murdered by the state if they persist and are effective in their activism as Oswaldo Payá, Laura Pollán, and many others have discovered over the decades.

These are some of the facts that need to be placed in evidence for a serious discussion of whether Cuba should or should not be a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Sadly what will take place tomorrow is a sham.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

#WithVenezuela Mass protests across Venezuela demanding recall of Maduro held

SOS Venezuela: All eyes on Venezuela

Protests across Venezuela on October 26, 2016
Time Magazine describes the situation in Venezuela as explosive and The Washington Post reports that large anti-Maduro protests filled the streets of Caracas and other major cities across the country chanting Democracy Yes! Dictatorship No! Opposition activists placed the number of protesters in the street yesterday at 1.2 million.

CNN in Spanish revealed video of Laura Lara, Venezuelan woman dressed in White, beaten down and kicked repeatedly by Venezuelan security forces yesterday. An investigation into this assault has been requested.

Youth leader Ana Karina Garcia giving thanks to Venezuelans participating in the protests outlined over twitter the next steps the opposition will be taking: today they go to the National Assembly, on Friday a national general strike has been called and on November 3rd a march on Miraflores.

In Miami and in over 60 cities around the world protests where held in solidarity with the protesters in Venezuela using the hashtag #ConVenezuela (#WithVenezuela).

Last night Venezuelans gathered in Miami to show their support for a free Venezuela
This past weekend Venezuelan women took to the streets of their homeland in protest and despite the efforts of the Maduro regime to shut down spaces for political participation over a million Venezuelans took to the streets today in an act of defiance.

All eyes on Venezuela.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The reason why Brigade 2506 endorsed Donald Trump

Why in a tight race in Florida the Cuban vote could be decisive

Mr. Donald Trump accepting endorsement by Brigade 2506 on October 25, 2016
The Brigade 2506 Veterans Association formally endorsed Donald Trump for President yesterday afternoon and received him at The Bay of Pigs Museum in Little Havana. This is the first endorsement for President ever made by the Brigade in its six decade long history. 

As the insults rain down from those partisans upset with the Trump endorsement a natural question arises: Why after more than a half century of formal neutrality in Presidential elections did the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association decide to endorse a candidate?

There are a number of reasons for this decision and why Cuban Americans may vote for Trump in huge percentages:

Freeing a murderer of four Cuban Americans and downplaying state terrorism
On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama announced that he was normalizing relations with the Castro regime, and he commuted the prison sentences of three Cuban spies. One of them Gerardo Hernandez was serving a life sentence for the murder of four members of Brothers to the Rescue on February 24 1996.  To add insult to injury two days later on December 19, 2014 at a year end press conference President Obama downplayed the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down as a "tragic circumstance" and not the premeditated act of state terrorism that had been plotted weeks in advance of February 24, 1996.

Armando, Mario, Carlos and Pablo murdered on February 24, 1996
The Clintons' terrible record on Cuba policy: then and now
The Clinton Administration engaged in unilateral concessions to the Castro regime and ended up with a mass exodus in 1994, a worsening human rights situation in Cuba, four young humanitarians murdered in an act of state terrorism over international airspace ordered by Fidel and Raul Castro on February 24, 1996. Despite all of this Bill Clinton refused to enforce the law tightening sanctions in 1996 in response to the shoot down, shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened up trade with the Castro regime. In 2015 former President Clinton warmly greeted and met with Raul Castro despite his role in the murder of American citizens.

Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and opened trade to Cuba
Meanwhile the Obama policy that Hillary Clinton championed in 2014 and 2015 has not had the desired results.  Human rights violations are at record levels in Cuba, there is a mass exodus of Cubans fleeing the island not seeing a future there  with the U.S. legitimizing the regime and assisting in a generational succession, and the U.S. is more isolated than ever in Latin America with its embrace of the Castro regime alienating it from democrats. The Colombian peace initiative,backed by the Obama administration, mediated by Raul Castro in Havana was rejected by the Colombian people in a national vote. The situation in Venezuela has descended into crisis as Nicaragua slides into dictatorship.

Three high profile instances of U.S. Cuba policy discriminating against Cubans

Protesting anti-Cuban discrimination by Carnival (2016)
It is not only civil liberties in Cuba that have taken a beating over the past two years but also in America to satisfy Castro regime demands. Below are three examples.

First, Carnival Cruise Line signed an agreement with the Castro regime on March 21, 2016 to sail to Cuba from the United States. In order to conduct their core mission Carnival had to agree to enforce General Castro's policy that bans all Cubans from traveling into the island by water. It did not matter if Cubans born on the island were now citizens of another country. Obama's Treasury Department on July 7, 2015 signed off on the Carnival Cruise Line - Castro alliance ignoring that an entire class of Americans would be discriminated against based on their national origin. Mass protests, boycotts and lawsuits led the Castro regime to blink when it became apparent that popular outrage would lead the cruise ship company to cancel its cruises.  
Second, the U.S. embassy in Cuba floated a trial balloon that announced that the United States government accepted that U.S. citizens of Cuban descent born in the United States are not recognized by the Castro regime as Americans but as Cuban nationals subject to the dictatorship's laws and regulations. Even though one was born in the United States and has never applied for dual nationality in Cuba they are treated as a Cuban born by the Castro regime in terms of responsibilities but not rights and the Obama State Department went along with it in order to have "normal relations." This also means that these U.S. citizens would be denied consular access in Cuba. The State Department had to back track in May of 2016 when this trial balloon sunk amidst negative press coverage and popular outrage.  
Third, American Airlines is pulling Cuban-American pilots and flight attendants off flights to Cuba in order to placate demands by the Castro regime. Fabiola Santiago, of The Miami Herald, obtained an American Airlines memo announcing the policy as follows: “Please remember that those who are Cuban born should be removed with pay from Cuba flights until we can verify what requirements the Cuban government has for these crew members.

Clinton, Trump called on to denounce violence against Cuba's Ladies in White

President Obama went to Cuba earlier this year to hobnob with Raul Castro and the rest of the elite communist leadership in Cuba. However the President remained relatively silent about the Ladies in White beaten up the same Sunday he and his family. 

On the eve of the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, “The Rebel Yell”, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas student newspaper published a full page ad from the Center for a Free Cuba urging them to “prod the Obama Administration to condition any future negotiations and affirmative responses to General Raul Castro’s requests to … the immediate end to beatings and abuses of peaceful dissidents by the regime’s police.” The ad “calls on all Americans to petition General Raul Castro to stop beating and abusing these women.”

There are reasons, some of them listed above, that Cuban Americans who are single issue voters on the Cuba issue would be upset with the Obama Administration's Cuba policy. 

Furthermore Mrs. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State advocated for this policy and gave a lecture at Florida International University focused on ending economic sanctions on Cuba.  The Obama administration and Clinton's running mate Senator Time Kaine have declared this policy irreversible.  

Mr. Donald Trump on the other hand has declared that he will undo it and try to reach an accommodation that improves the human rights situation of Cubans and protects U.S. interests. At the same time he praised Cuba's Ladies in White and blasted the Obama-Clinton Cuba policy.

These contrasting visions explain the decision of the Brigade to endorse Donald Trump today and reject the Obama-Clinton Cuba policy. 

In a tight race in Florida where three points separate the two candidates the Cuban American vote can play a decisive role in deciding who the next President of the United States will be. 

On November 8th we will see how Cuban Americans will vote and what impact they have in Florida. 

Meanwhile the testimony of Miriam de la Peña, whose son Mario was one of the four men murdered on February 24, 1996 who met with Donald Trump this morning, explains the behavior of the Obama administration that so outraged her.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

OAS Condemns Measures to Shut Down Spaces for Political Participation in Venezuela

 Venezuela descends into dictatorship


IACHR and Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression Condemn Measures to Shut Down Spaces for Political Participation in Venezuela and Raise Alarm at their Impact on Democracy 

October 25, 2016

Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression condemn the actions taken by the Venezuelan State to shut down vital space for political participation in the country and persecute those who have exercised their right to freedom of expression. The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur, raise alarm at the impact of these measures on Venezuelan democracy.

Throughout 2016, the IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur have followed with great concern the different ways in which the State has imposed serious limitations on pluralism in the exercise of political rights and freedom of expression, both through the application of the law and outside the law. Most notable among these actions are the obstacles that have been imposed by the authorities to prevent Venezuelans from participating in free and trustworthy elections,  the gradual suspension of the constitutional powers of the majority opposition Congress, the arbitrary detention and incarceration of opponents and persons who publicly dissent from the government or express their opinions in the media, the repression and undue restriction of protests, the dismissal and threatened dismissal of public employees who make statements or express political opinions against the party in office, campaigns of stigmatization, surveillance, and harassment against human rights defenders and journalists, as well as the continual use of the criminal law and other government controls to punish or stifle the work of the critical press. 

The Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur are especially concerned over the October 20, 2016 decision of the National Electoral Board to indefinitely suspend the signature gathering process for the presidential recall referendum promoted by opposition parties and other sectors of society.  A number of Venezuelan civil society organizations have reported that five criminal courts in the States of Aragua, Bolívar, Apure, Monagas, and Carabobo invalidated—“unexpectedly” and “without any legal authority”—the act of collecting signatures from 1% of voters registered in the Venezuelan Electoral Registry in their jurisdictions. According to the information available, the judgments, which were handed down simultaneously, were almost immediately complied with by the nation’s highest electoral body. This suggests the possibility of a coordinated plan to prevent the public from being able to assess the president’s performance through the referendum mechanism. 

In the case of Rocío San Miguel et al. (Venezuela), filed with the Inter-American Court in March 2016, the Commission found that a signature in favor of convening a political participation mechanism like the presidential recall referendum not only constitutes the exercise of political rights but is also an expression of the political opinion of the signatories, protected in turn by the right to freedom of expression and the principle of nondiscrimination. As is known, this electoral process is also considered by several Member States of the OAS to be a free and democratic form of channeling the country’s social and political polarization.

All of these measures have taken place against the backdrop of a profound weakening of the separation of powers and an economic, food, and health crisis in the country that continues to affect the rights to health, life, and humane treatment of the general population, with a differentiated impact among individuals or groups in situation of high vulnerability, including children, the elderly, people with disabilities, people with serious illnesses, and people living with HIV-AIDS.
The Inter-American Commission has underscored that there is a “direct relationship between the exercise of political rights and the concept of democracy as a form of State organization,” and has reiterated to Venezuela the need to guarantee the rights of citizens and organized political groups to political participation and freedom of expression without fear of retaliation, permitting and fostering a plural, broad, and robust public debate.

In the Inter-American system, the relationship between human rights and democracy is enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which states that: “Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.”

The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur urgently call upon the State of Venezuela to comply with its international human rights obligations. In particular, to respect and guarantee the right to freedom of expression and the right to participation of all sectors in the country’s political life, including the duty to facilitate demonstrations and protests that have been called for as a result of this serious decision by the electoral body and to put an end to those actions that impede the exercise of the right of individuals to choose their representatives and exercise oversight over them.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Christian Liberation Movement statement on Podesta wikileak referencing Oswaldo Payá

"The truth will make them stand in solidarity with our freedom." MCL Declaration on email of John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton.

By the Christian Liberation Movement

"The truth will set them in solidarity with our freedom."

In a July 2015 email disseminated by wikileaks, John Podesta, campaign manager for Hillary Clinton says the phrase "Yes. Oswaldo Payá. Cuban government ran him off the road and killed him almost certainly."

That a very important person, also linked to the administration of President Obama and now the Democratic candidate, to make such a statement indicates that in the upper echelons of power in the United States they have evidence or details that allow them to make that statement.

The Christian Liberation Movement from the outset spread this message "Angel says that a vehicle forced us off the road" sent by Aron Modig, who traveled with Angel Carromero as a passenger in the vehicle that suffered the attack.

Since then we have been divulging all the details that we have known about this tragedy and called for an independent investigation to clarify what happened. Not only the United States, governments such as the Spanish, the Swedish and many foreign ministries have information about what occurred on July 22, 2012 on the road from Bayamo.

We hope that whoever wins the election demand and directly support this independent investigation into the death of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero and to support our demand, "One Cuban, one vote" for the freedom that Oswaldo and Harold Cuba lived and died for reach the hand of the sovereign decision of the people. This is the way for the democracies to have a relationship of total solidarity with Cuba that is also all of us Cubans who do not have rights.

Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero killed on July 22, 2012