By Miguel Sigler Amaya (brother of political prisoner Ariel Sigler Amaya)
The United States Department of State, according to Andrea Rodriguez in Washington DC, and who is personally in charge of Ariel’s case, has approved a Humanitarian Parole with a National Interest Waiver to enter the US. According to Andrea, this is a special permit issued by the USA once a year and only to more or less ten people. The visa is already at the US Section of Interests in Havana. The USDS has reached out three times to the Cuban chancellery [Ministry of Foreign Relations] and has received no answer. The next step will be to present the chancellery with an official written document requesting [Cuba’s official] authorization so that Ariel can travel to the US to attempt to save his life.
The doctor told Radio Martí that Fariñas has a new infection that is causing him to have a high and constant fever upward of 40º C [104º F], and that he is not currently being fed intravenously. According to Iglesias, this last factor can cause him hypotension that can lead to a heart attack. The low blood pressure readings have been present since they [the medical personnel] discontinued the use of a catheter.
Ismely has called on the Cuban government to listen to Fariñas’s demands of freeing twenty six political prisoners who are also in precarious health.
García, 41, who writes for several opposition press agencies online, was summarily sentenced on April 23rd at the end of a very speedy trail [after being arrested on April 22nd], stated Sánchez.
The dissident, who has taken part in recent marches with the Ladied in White —the wives of political prisoners— is now an inmate at the women’s high security prison Manto Negro [Black Shawl] west of Havana., added [Sánchez] the president of the illegal Cuban Commission on Human Rights, that functions with [some level] of tolerance from the government.
Sánchez remarked that he’s looking into “whether this is a politically motivated retaliation” and said that García’s daughter, 23, is acquiescent of her mother’s imprisonment.
“Her family has turned their backs on her. I spoke to her daughter and she said that it is alright that her mom is in prison to see if she changes her way of thinking. She’s supported by the CDR (Committee for the Defense of the Revolution), the local chief of police, and other [government] institutions” he added.
García, who collaborates with opposition websites Primavera Digital and CubaNet, also maintains a blog on which she expresses her support for the Ladies in White, criticizes the human rights situation. Among her linked sites, there is one created by veterans of the Bay of Pigs anti-Castro invasion of 1961.
[The Cuban government in] Havana accuses opposition activists of being Washington’s mercenaries and of being used in a US and European orchestrated “campaign” to “discredit” the revolution after the February 23rd death of prisoner and opposition activist Orlando Zapata after an almost three month long hunger strike; and 65 (66) day long hunger strike by dissident journalist Guillermo Fariñas
(Source AFP-El Comercio, Quito, Ecuador translated by #OZT I accuse the Cuban government)
More information at the film's official website.
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“We […] assume the responsibility of coming to you once more to urge you to end your hunger strike.” 88 dissidents told Fariñas in the document that was delivered to him in the Santa Clara hospital where he is interned since March 11th. It was also forwarded to the international press corps, according to Agence France Press (AFP).
“They ask me to head a project to request amnesty for the political prisoners, but I declined because it is an non-viable project” stated Fariñas from the hospital.
The 48 year old psychologist remarked that “at this moment, the international public opinion is centered on what’s happening in Cuba regarding human rights” and “it isn’t the time to lift the pressure from the government” but “to intensify it.”
Havana, April 26th, 2010
To: Lic. Guillermo Fariñas Hernández
Calle Alemán No. 615-A e/ Hospital y Misionero
Santa Clara, Villa Clara.
Our brother and compatriot,
We, the signatories of this Plea from the Nation, assume the responsibility of coming to you once more to urge you to end your hunger strike.
This petition falls in line with so many other similar requests made by international organizations, religious institutions, personalities and governments with the conviction that life is our most precious asset to preserve.
Compatriot and brother, here is what is at stake: to sacrifice your life would deprive your entire family, especially your daughter, of the harmony and equilibrium provided by the love, guardianship and affective ties. It would also deprive us of a very valuable champion for the Cuban nation’s future life. Neither family nor nation can afford such loss.
The reaction of the [Cuban] government to all these dramatic events reveals the ever growing divorce between the moral bases that cemented the foundations of Cuba, and the attitudes of those who pretending to care for the people, mortgaged the future of our nation. A state reaction that mimics that of the street thug who caught in an immoral act, instead of responding suitably to this ethic dilemma, threatens the whole community with destruction.
This persistent obstinacy, this inherent malevolence, and that blissful ignorance that without even blushing the [Cuban] authorities continue to publicly proclaim, keep shocking the world and uniting all decent persons, regardless of their differences, around basic values that define modern coexistence. This is something for which we, in the midst of all our struggles, must thank the world. We thank you as well.
In the light of these current events, it is clear that the [Cuban] government’s cruelty is its most valuable resource to stay in power. And, as you know, and as [Father] Félix Varela taught us, cruelty is the clearest sign of a lack of any virtue to exercise power ethically. Faced with that, our strength begins by defending life.
The greatness of your gesture continues to inspire respect and admiration everywhere, in all cultures. It has made clear to all that the image portrayed by Security of State does not coincide with the nation’s real image. Cuba is closer to you than to its government.
The sad death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, condemned by all civilized peoples, the brutal repression against the Ladies in White –witnessed by the whole world– and your prolonged hunger strike, have increased the global awareness of the human rights situation in Cuba and created a new opportunity to also increase that awareness among as many other Cubans as possible. Your leadership on this most urgent endeavor can be of much greater value than any symbolism derived from your current actions. Your leadership can be combined with that altruistic ability to put other’s lives before yours. It is a symbolic ability that reveals, in its extreme determination, the odyssey of a country in desperation.
This new chance for Cuba has been perceived in all latitudes. The organizers of the [Orlando Zapata Tamayo] I Accuse [the Cuban Government] Campaign have suggested a new initiative that you should lead within the island: to collect 10,000 signatures to petition the National Assembly for the liberation of all political prisoners, and especially that of our 25 brothers in precarious health. These signatures would be joined to the more than 46,000 other ones from personalities and plain citizens from around the world – who have decided to accompany us in this difficult hour, and to the condemnation [of the Cuban regime] by parliaments and other international institutions.
We, who subscribe this Plea from the Nation, are already with you in this endeavor that should surely increase awareness within Cuba about the natural rights of all Cubans.
In fact, this is already happening. The cold reaction of the Cuban government to Zapata’s death and your hunger strike moved a Cuban citizen to exclaim: “Lord, who are these Castro [brothers]??” That question captures and summarizes a fate that we do not deserve, and its ethic implications are as deep as Orlando Zapata’s offering and your vital solidarity with those who need it most: the [political] prisoners.
Remember this, Nelson Mandela eminently said that a government is not judged by the way it treats its most prominent citizens, but by the way in which it treats those suffering the most: those in jail. And you, together with Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the Ladies in White, have touchingly shed light on the suffering of those marginalized by the regime. History has pronounced its judgment.
In the next phase of this new project so desperately needed by this nation, we need you. Your life is indispensable to us. It is that simple.
Walk with us.
Members of the Civil Society who sign this Plea from the Nation:
1. Leonardo Calvo Cárdenas – Political Activist, Member of Orlando Zapata Tamayo Committee (COTZ)
2. Juan del Pilar Goberna – Human Rights Activist COTZ-CCDHRN
3. Eleanor Calvo Martínez – Civic Activist CIR-COTZ
4. Juan Antonio Madrazo - Civic Activist CIR-COTZ
5. Víctor Manuel Domínguez – Cuban Writers’ Club
6. Jesús Díaz Núñez - Political activist - Arco Progresista Group
7. Jorge Olivera Castillo - Cuban Writers’ Club
8. Fernando Sánchez López - Democratic Solidarity Party –COTZ
9. Oscar Mario González – Independent Journalist
10. Carlos Jesús Menéndez - Human Rights Activist
11. Marcelo López Bañobre - Independent Journalist and Photojournalist
12. Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz - Human Rights Activist -CCDHRN
13. Bárbara Josefa Estrabao - CCDHRN-CA
14. Juan Juan Almeida García – Cuban Citizen
15. Lázara B. Sendiña Recalde - FLDBOZT
16. Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco - FLDBOZT
17. Francisco Leblanc Anafe – Director of the Independent Cuban Institute of Syndical Studies
18. Víctor M. Gonzélz Buduen - Civic Activist –CIR
19. Manuel Cuesta Morúa - Political Activist - Arco Progresista Group -COTZ
20. Carlos Serpa Maceira – Free Cuban Journalists Union
21. Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez - Hablemospress (independent news agency)
22. Magali Norvis Otero Suárez - Hablemospress (independent news agency)
23. Fidel Mojena Rivero – Partido 30 de Noviembre
24. Carlos Ríos Otero - Hablemospress (independent news agency)
25. Roberto Ávalos - Hablemospress (independent news agency)
26. Dulce María Díaz Quintana – Lady in White
27. Eriberto Liranza Romero - Independent Association of Educators
28. José Antonio Sánchez Santoyo - Alternative Republican Movement
29. Maritza Castro Martínez - Lady in White (Suporter)
30. Ivonne Malleza Galano - Lady in White (Suporter)
31. Luis Cino - Periodista Independiente- Primavera Newspaper
32. Amalia López Morera – Cuban Citizen
33. Julio César Jorrin Campos – Civic League Martiana
34. Sergio García Argentel - Partido Democrático 30 de Noviembre
35. Jeydi Coca Quesada - Lady in White (Suporter) Partido Dem. 30 de Noviembre
36. Moisés Leonardo Rodríguez Valdés - Corriente Martiana – United for a Free Cuba
37. Jaime Leygonier Fernández - Independent Journalist
38. Edel González Hernández - Cuban Citizen
39. Jorge Luis Quicutis Romero – Independent Librarian
40. Lisbán Hernández Sánchez - Independent Journalist
41. Liuba N. Kawooya Toca - Independent Democratic Cuba
42. José Antonio Martínez Márquez - Independent Democratic Cuba
43. Lucía Hernández Farah - Political activist - Arco Progresista Group
44. Carlos Romualdo Purniel Ramos - Independent Democratic Cuba
45. Ricardo Santiago Medina Salabarría - Priest
46. Vicente Rodríguez Hernández - Independent Democratic Cuba
47. Katia Sonia Martin Vélez - Independent Democratic Cuba
48. Lizbuz Marina Posada Licea – Cuban Citizen
49. Xiomara Sujo Fernández - Independent Association of Educators
50. Raúl Velásquez Valdés - Independent Association of Educators
51. Héctor Cruz Hernández - Independent Association of Educators
52. Ricardo L. González - Independent Association of Educators
53. Jimmy Jaime Jorge - Independent Association of Educators
54. Humberto José Bello Laffita - Independent Association of Educators
55. Lázaro Jaime Martínez - Independent Association of Educators
56. Roberto de Miranda Hernández - Independent Association of Educators
57. Soledad Rivas Verdecia - Independent Association of Educators
58. Yasea Pineda Alfonso - Independent Association of Educators
59. Ruviere González Mia - Independent Association of Educators
60. Rafael González Ruiz - Liberal Cuban Party
61. Walter Miguel Lahens Rodríguez - Independent Association of Educators
62. Lucas Garve – Independent Journalist
63. Fernando Palacio Mogar – Cuban National Liberal Party
64. Ronald Mendoza Méndez - Cuban National Liberal Party
65. Pedro A. Bello Méndez - Cuban National Liberal Party
66. Iván Valdés Rodríguez - Cuban National Liberal Party
67. Gerardo González Morales - Cuban National Liberal Party
68. Eroisis González Suárez - Cuban National Liberal Party
69. Esther González Pérez - UPCI
70. Roberto Díaz Morales - FUN
71. Juana Vázquez González – Cuban Citizen
72. Evaristo Pérez Rodríguez - FUN
73. Carlos Trujillo Goicochea - Cuban Citizen
74. Clara Mendoza Méndez - UPCI
75. Faustino Suárez de la Nuez - UPCI
76. Fernando Concepción Pérez - FUN
77. Caridad González Vázquez - FUN
78. Misleydys Rodríguez Páez - Cuban Citizen
79. Magdalena Rojas Espinosa - UPCI
80. Miguel Castellanos Sánchez - FUN
81. Sandro Tersidor González - FUN
82. Leonardo Padrón Comptiz - Political Activist - Arco Progresista Group
83. Javier Helbello - Political activist - Arco Progresista Group
84. Yusnaimy Jorge Soca – Civic Activist
85. Aida Valdés Santana – Human Rights Activist
86. Raúl Borges Álvarez - Christian Democratic Unity Party -COTZ
87. Mayra Sánchez - Political Activist - Arco Progresista Group
88. Rigoberto Rodríguez Capaz - Political Activist - Arco Progresista Group
Zapatero is urged to join the campaign for the release of all Cuban political prisoners from within his own partyposted on Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Meritxell Batet, Spanish Member of Congress for the Socialist Group, said today that the situation in Cuba “every day, every minute, every second, is worse.” She stated that the best way to achieve the release of all Cuban political prisoners will be through the united effort of all [Spanish]political parties.
Batet released this message during the debate of a motion on behalf of Cuban dissidents in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Spanish Congress.
The non-binding proposal, submitted by the Member of Congress for Union del Pueblo Navarro [Union of Navarrean People] (UPN), Carlos Salvador, requests that the President of the Government José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero join the international movement in defense of human rights in Cuba.
It also urges him to join the campaign “I accuse the Cuban government,” launched after the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo on 23 February after 85 days on hunger strike.
“We will never ask for a permit until they ask us to do it legally through a document from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry Interior or the General Prosecutor’s office” —stated Pollán.
“The women of Cuba should know that all of them who would wish to support the Ladies in White have the door open to do so. That it is the government who represses because they want to destroy us” added the wife of imprisoned journalist Héctor Maceda Gutiérrez.
As part of the government imposed restrictions, the Ladies in White and their Support Group have been prevented from attending Sunday mass at Saint Rita of Cassia Catholic Church; and from peacefully marching on the centric Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) in the Miramar neighborhood of the Playa municipality. For several consecutive weeks they have been the victims of “acts of repudiation” perpetrated by paramilitary mobs directed by Security of State.
Carlos Serpa Maceira, Union of Free Journalists of Cuba.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s mother presents her formal accusation against the illegitimate regime of the Castro brothers for the violation of their rightsposted on Wednesday, April 28, 2010
- The letter, signed by Reina Luisa Tamayo Dánger, has been delivered to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
- Accompanying the letter is a dossier on the case.
April 28th, 2010. Reina Luisa Tamayo Dánger, mother of late Cuban opposition activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo — who died from a prolonged hunger strike in jail— has presented a formal accusation of the “illegitimate regime of Fidel Castro Ruz and Raúl Castro Ruz” before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The document is also accompanied by a detailed dossier on the case.
In the letter, Tamayo Dánger bases her accusation on the “legislated, systematic, programmed, formalized and executed violation of all basic and universally recognized rights and freedoms committed against my son Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and the rest of our family”
This is the second formal accusation against the castroite regime presented before the IACHR. A similar one from activist Guillermo Fariñas —who is on the second month of a hunger strike initiated to force the regime to free all political prisoners— was delivered to the Commission several weeks ago. His accusation was recently designated as “proceeding” by the Commission.
Contact information for Reina Luisa Tamayo Dánger:
Reina Luisa Tamayo Danger
Carretera Embarcadero #6,
Mariana Grajales, La Güira, Banes, Holguín, Cuba
Mobile phone: +53 52 39 51 69
Translation of the letter’s text:
Through this letter, I, Reina Luisa Tamayo Dánger, Cuban born, and in perfect command of all my mental faculties; present before this Commission my formal accusation against the illegitimate regime of Fidel Castro Ruz and Raúl Castro Ruz for the legislated, systematic, programmed, formalized and executed violation of all basic and universally recognized rights and freedoms committed against my son Orlando Zapata Tamayo, and the rest of our family.
The attached documentation shall be delivered to the Commission by Cuban born Alina Brouwer Guerra —individual recognized as a political refugee by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1993, who was granted political asylum in Spain in 1997, and who now resides in the US— and by Professor Ricardo Bofill Pagés, political refugee, residing n the US, and a founding member of the Cuban Pro-Human Rights Committee.
Reina Luisa Tamayo Dánger.
For further information, please contact:
Alina Brouwer Guerra,
Cuban Pro-Human Rights Committee
For more than a month, Cuba's Ladies in White have been getting leaned on. Castro's goons have taken to surrounding them after the women go to Mass in Havana and march for their loved ones in prison. Now Dania Virgen García is in prison.
She didn't have a loved-one in a Cuban jail when she began processing through the streets of Havana with the Ladies in White on Sundays. But she decided to join them in solidarity against the unjust imprisonment of husbands, fathers and brothers rounded up during the Black Spring of March 2003 and handed harsh sentences for speaking their consciences.
She was one of a growing number of women there who call themselves "Ladies in Support."
On April 22 state security arrested the young blogger, and less than 48 hours later she received a prison sentence of one year and eight months. She has been sent to the country's largest maximum security prison for women, known commonly by Cubans as "the black veil." It's easy to guess why they call it that.
The regime's assaults on independent thinkers date back 51 years. But Ms. García's arrest is not without significance. It is the clearest sign to date of the regime's desperation in the face of popular discontent.
Ms. García is what Cubans call an independent journalist. Carmen Ferreiro, director of information and press for Human Rights Cuba based in Miami, says she met Ms. García online "toward the end of 2009" and helped her get her blog up and running. The two women exchanged emails.
"This is how in a short time I came to know that Dania was very devoted to her Catholic faith, that she spoke affectionately about her family, that she enjoyed photography and struggled despite limited resources for human rights in Cuba."
Ms. Ferreiro reports that Ms. García knew she was under surveillance and explained the threat in an email: "Things in Cuba are not well at all, but I am going to continue this struggle to the death or until whatever they want happens; I will continue to support the Ladies in White, even if they continue to beat us, because what they want is for us to be afraid and we are not going to allow that to happen."
Though without Dania now, the Ladies in White surely will be walking in the face of an increasingly dangerous mob again this Sunday. The world might want to take notice.
April 27th, 2010 - Close to a million Cubans turned their back on the Castro regime in the mockery of municipal elections conducted this past Sunday in the Caribean island. According to the data offered by Cuban official media yesterday, 993.305 did not exercise their right to vote or vote against the government, nullifying or leaving their ballots blank.
According to non-verifiable and traditionally propagandistic statistics from the Cuban government, of the 8.205.994 voters who went to the polls (of an eligible 8.468.144), a 4.33% nullified their ballots while a 4.58% left their ballots blank. Add to these “rebellious” ballots the percentage of abstentions: 4.1%, a number that has grown for the first time in these reports.
Not participating in elections carries negative consequences for Cuban workers and students. The million people in Cuba who did not join the electoral farce or boycotted it by delivering blank ballots (an act of protest that challenges the so-called “joint vote” from the Castro regime, which promotes voting for all the candidates, who have been previously hand- picked by the government) or nullified ballots (as in the case of hunger striker Guillermo Fariñas, who wrote in his ballot: “Down with the Castro Tyranny”), is not alone. They would have to be added to the millions of Cubans living in exile who’s right to vote has been revoked by the Cuban regime.
Havana, April 26th, 2010. “The Union of Free Journalists of Cuba, confirms that the Ladies in White —mothers, wives, aunts and other relatives of the 75 Cuban political prisoners arrested, tried and imprisoned during Cuba’s Black Spring— were again the victims of the Cuban regime’s repression that for the third time forbade them to peacefully march, as they do every Sunday, after attending mass at Saint Rita’s Catholic Church.
Laura Pollán Toledo, Berta Soler Fernández, Julia Esther Núñez Pacheco, Asunción Carrillo, Loida Valdez, and Laura María Labrada Pollán, were intercepted by two uniformed agents of the National Revolutionary Police, and a Security of State agent when they were set to start their march on Quinta Avenida (5th Avenue) in the Miramar neighborhood of the Playa municipality.
‘The police told us that we could not continue walking since we had not asked for a permit’ — said Loida Valdez.
For more than seven hours, the women found themselves under siege in the Ghandi Park (Parque Ghandi) by an “act of repudiation” staged by 80 members of government hordes.
‘They pushed us, we were insulted with obscene words. They brought a hoe, a pot and a spoon which they clanked noisily in our ears’ — stated Valdez. Foreign press journalists covered the incident. This reporter was detained 200 meters from the place by Security of State agents, and escorted away under threat.
It was also confirmed that an undetermined number of Ladies in White, and Support Ladies (Damas de Apoyo) were detained and prevented from attending mass on Sunday.
Laura Pollán Toledo, Berta Soler Fernández, Julia Esther Núñez Pacheco, Asunción Carrillo, Loida Valdez, and Laura María Labrada Pollán were forced to board a bus by Security of State agents and the mob, and then transported to their headquarters in the Cayo Hueso neigborhood of Centro Habana municipality.
‘We want them to gives us the legal document where the restrictions imposed against us by the government are clearly stated. The Ladies in White will continue our struggle, and we do not exclude the possibility that our blood may be spilled on the streets. As long as there are political prisoners, there will be Ladies in White clamoring for their freedom. The government should have no doubts about this. We are motivated by freedom, and we are willing to pay any necessary price’ — stated Laura Pollán Toledo.”
Source: Reporting from Havana, Cuba, Cuban independent journalist Carlos Serpa Maceira.
Independent journalist and Ladies in White supporter arrested and summarily sentenced to prison in Cubaposted on Sunday, April 25, 2010
Several independent journalists report from Cuba that independent journalist and Dama de Apoyo (Ladies in White Supporter) Dania Virgen García was arrested on charges that are yet no clear on April 22nd or 23rd. She was then summarily sentenced to 1 year and 8 months behind bars, and has been sent to the notorious Manto Negro prison.
Here is more from Marc Masferrer.
Blog for Cuba.
And Human Rights in Cuba
Note from the #OZT team: With this post, we are merely predicting the headlines from Granma, Castro’s official newspaper, for tomorrow’s edition, after the “elections.” We are not spreading false news. The one spreading false news is Granma.
One good example is the recent campaign #OZT: I accuse the Cuban government. In barely a month, through Twitter and the Internet, a handful of activists have managed to gather almost fifty thousand signatures condemning the death of Orlando Zapata and supporting the release of the political prisoners in Cuba. Among them are hundreds of public figures ranging from Pedro Almodóvar, Mario Vargas Llosa and Fernando Savater, to Roberto Saviano and Anthony Appiah. The media effect of this campaign has been overwhelming and has successfully affected the Cuban reality. Three prominent young intellectuals, members of Cuba’s Artists and Writers Union, UNEAC, have decided to add their names, knowing the consequences which may befall them. Though few in number, they have a kind of immunity: were they to face repression, the subsequent wave of solidarity would encourage more people to get off the fence, causing major problems for the regime.
This has been the great lesson of Yoani Sánchez, learned by both the Ladies in White and cyberactivists-in-exile: Use the new media and the opportunities of the Internet to develop a win-win scenario of media transparency; no matter how it responds — whether with indifference or repression — the government is seen to be weak.
Read more at: Penúltimos días
I signed because the Cuban government can no longer pretend that it is upholding the law when it incarcerates people for crimes of “disrespect,” “dangerousness” and “ideological diversionism.”
The shocking, brutal treatment of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in prison, the shameful persecution of the Damas de Blanco, and the ongoing incarceration of over 200 peaceful dissidents who held opinions not approved by the government, show that government to be the worst kind of dictatorship.
That the Castro regime has not responded to hunger striker Guillermo Farinas’ request that it release 26 of the most critically ill Cuban political prisoners is evidence of the callous disregard for human life that is the lynchpin of this totalitarian dynasty.
Valerie Block, American writer
Why have you signed the declaration for the Freedom of Cuban Political Prisoners? If you would like to make public your reasons, we invite you to send an email to email@example.com. Please write in the subject "Reasons to sign the declaration."
The demonstration will begin at 4:00 pm on Sunday April 25th, 2010 at 59th Street and Bergenline Avenue in West New York, NJ. It will march on Bergenline Avenue to the monument to José Martí on 42nd Street, Union City, NJ. A communiqué by the organizers will be read in front of the monument, and they will attempt to establish communication via mobile phone with the Ladies in White in Cuba, and with Guillermo Fariñas.
Because the world is finally awakening to the abuses committed against the Cuban people by the the Castro brothers’ regime, we appreciate the attendance of all freedom lovers that would like to march with us regardless of national origin. All in attendance should wear all white if at all possible.
We will have the honor to have with us one of the founding members of the Ladies in White: Dolia Leal and her husband, Nelson Aguiar ex-political prisoner arrested during Cuba’s Black Spring.
Ladies in White Support Group organizers:
Siomara Sánchez, Ana Cueto-Acosta, Georgia Romero, Fina Farrés, Mirta Cairo.
Who are the campaign organizers and what are their affiliations, if any?
Most of the people involved in the campaign emigrated from Cuba during the 1990s and settled in the US, Canada, Europe and Latin America. Several of them were political refugees. They now work as academics, journalists, translators, programmers, photographers and artists. None is the member of a political or governmental association.
How was the campaign team formed?
Most of the team met in the Cuban blogosphere. A core group had collaborated on other human rights projects, most recently a successful fall 2009 campaign to pressure the Cuban government to release Panfilo, a man jailed for being filmed saying there was hunger in Cuba.
Why are they doing this?
The campaign team is united in their desire for a Cuba in which all fundamental human and civil rights are respected.
What are their sources of financing and other support?
The campaign receives NO outside financing or logistical, strategic or operational support. Both the hard costs (website, software, telecommunications services) and the soft costs (an enormous number of person-hours) have been assumed by the team members themselves.
What has the campaign done?
Organized a petition through which Cubans and other individuals around the world (45,000 and counting) can condemn the wrongful death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo in February 2010, demand the release of all remaining political prisoners from Cuban jails, and affirm their wish that Cuba respect the basic human rights of all its citizens.
What are its short and long-term goals?
In the short-term, to prevent the death by starvation of Guillermo Fariñas and any other hunger-striking dissidents and prisoners of conscience, as well as to obtain the release of all Cuban political prisoners. In the long term, to effect a transition to a Cuba in which there is the right to life, liberty and security of person; freedom of opinion and expression; freedom of peaceful assembly and association; and a government based on the will of the people as expressed in periodic and genuine elections.
Is the campaign being coordinated with the hunger strikers in Cuba?
No. Occasionally, we receive messages from hunger strikers conveyed by their relatives or human rights activists within Cuba. Fariñas and other prisoners of conscience are aware of the existence of this campaign and have signed the petition. That is the extent of the coordination.
Is there a set of campaign principles?
Human rights, democracy, transparency and non-violence.
How does this campaign differ from past efforts to promote human rights in Cuba?
This is the first human rights campaign to challenge a repressive regime through the use of e-democracy on a massive scale, joining the myriad voices of Cubans in and out of Cuba; important American, European and Latin American intellectuals and artists; elected officials from all political stripes; and citizens from over 103 countries. It is our hope that the campaign serves as the first step in a peaceful transition to a democratic Cuba.
What can I do to help?
Sign the petition, and ask others to sign it! And stay tuned for campaign updates.
With this post, '#OZT: I Accuse the Cuban Government' starts publishing a series of responses from public figures who've shared with us the reasons why they have signed the declaration for the Freedom of Cuban Political Prisoners. Their support covers a very wide political range and represents many sectors from society. That diversity is precisely the basis on which this campaign in defense of human rights (in Cuba and anywhere else in the world) rests.
Apart from the many reasons to sign this letter, I am even more intrigued by the reasons not to sign it that could be argued by those who have not signed such a simple document that the only thing it does is to advocate for the most basic human rights for all Cubans.
Paquito D'Rivera, Cuban musician
Why have you signed the declaration for the Freedom of Cuban Political Prisoners? If you would like to make public your reasons, we invite you to send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please write in the subject "Reasons to sign the declaration."
Never before has a document managed to collect so many signatures calling for improvements in human rights in Cuba. What's more, since the Varela Project - led by Oswaldo Paya - collected almost 11 thousand signatories to demand a democratic referendum in the country, we have not seen an similar flood of people adding their names publicly to a demand for change. The current campaign to demand freedom for political prisoners has been, without a doubt, an acid test for the injured Cuban civil society. With the death of the prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo, indignation has united citizens like no other common cause has done before. Even the breach, deepened by official propaganda, between Cubans on the Island and those in exile, has been disappearing with the tragic events of recent weeks.
Yoani Sanchez, award-winning Cuban blogger in the Huffington Post.
Numerous news agencies, newspapers and other media, report this morning on the Cuban regime's latest assault on the rights on the Ladies in White.
UPI: Cuba clamps down on 'Ladies in White'
"For the second consecutive week, Cuban security agents Sunday surrounded nine women and prevented them from marching after a church service in Havana, group member Alejandrina Garcia said."
The New York Times through Reuters: Cuba Clamps Down on 'Ladies In White' Protest
""We are not going to stop until you give us an order in writing that we need a permit," leader Laura Pollan told authorities before the crowd set in.
The women linked arms, held up flowers and stood mostly silent under the verbal abuse from government supporters.
The incident ended when state security agents forced the white-clad dissidents into a bus and whisked them away. They were driven to their homes.
Three of the nine women were helped from the crowd earlier when they grew faint after standing for so long under the warm sun and the hot breath of 100 chanting government supporters. "
The Miami Herald: Cuban security agents again halt march by Ladies in White
"A security agent told the women they could not march because they lacked a permit, but the women remained standing just outside the church for about three hours, García added.
``We staged an act of civil resistance,'' she said. Three of the women began to feel sick under the hot sun and went to a nearby hospital before the standoff ended, she added.
``At the end, the security agents and the mob were suffering from the sun as much as us, so they flagged down a city bus and forced us aboard in a harsh way, with pushes,'' García said.
The pro-government civilians shouted insults at the women, who answered with shouts of ``freedom,'' said García. The buses took them to the home of the group's spokeswoman, Laura Pollán."
Radio Netherlands: Cuba blocks Ladies in White march
"When the women showed up at their traditional gathering point at the Santa Rita Catholic Church in Havana's Miramar district on Sunday they were told they could not hold their march without a permit. The women were jeered and shouted at by government supporters for more than two hours before they were taken away in minivans."
CNN reports that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in its 2009 report, has ranked Cuba and Venezuela as the worst countries in the Americas regarding the respect of human rights.
"Venezuela has moved decidedly backward by the decisions of Chavez and, in many ways, is the most-serious case in the Americas," [Robert] Pastor [Latin America national security adviser for President Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s] said.
"Cuba has pretty much stayed the same, which is bad," he said.
The Commission recently received and accepted a formal complaint against the Cuban regime by opposition activist Guillermo Fariñas who is on the 6th week of a hunger strike protesting the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and for the liberation of 26 sick political prisoners.
Recently released independent journalist, Oscar Sánchez Madam, described his three year long experience in a Cuban jail under charges of "dangerousness" to José Barbeito of the Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ).
“I don’t wish on anybody the dreadful experience I had in prison.” he told Barbeito. He went on to describe the deplorable conditions in which he had to survive during that time, including the filthy conditions and lack of water (“Detainees, including me, were diagnosed many times with severe, chronic diarrhea and parasites.”) in the small cell he had to share "with people who had convictions of 15 or 18 years on charges of murder or other serious, violent crimes.”
He explained how those people beat and harassed political prisoners on a regular basis by command of the penal authorities. He himself was beaten and harassed several times.
However, he remains committed to continue reporting on human rights abuses and the corruption of the Cuban regime: “I would prefer to continue reporting and writing about current affairs on the island, including human rights violations by the Cuban government,”
More details at the link.
Cuban independent journalist Caridad Caballero Batista, reports that Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, a prisoner of conscience imprisoned during Cuba’s Black Spring, has been interned in the medical post at the provincial prison of Holguín, Cuba since April 13th.
His health has deteriorated dangerously. However, he had to plea repeatedly with the penal authorities to receive medical attention. He’s suffering from “acute pain in the cervical area of his spine, shortness of breath, dizziness, nausea, malaise, asthma and pulmonary congestion. He’s being hydrated intravenously and is wearing a neck brace”
The lack of medical attention is a constant complain from Cuban prisoners. On April 12th, Cuban doctor Darsi Ferrer, abandoned an almost two month long hunger strike after the Cuban regime agreed to give him medical attention for a dental infection. Ferrer also obtained the promise that his case will be finally heard in court. He has been in prison since July 21st, 2009 for allegedly buying some bags of cement and other construction materials (only available in the black market) to repair his home. He has not been taken to court, and neither arraigned nor tried.
Introduction to President Obama by Gloria Estefan at a fundraiser at hers and Emilio's home on April 15th, 2010. Via David Naranjo, the Estefan's publicist.
Welcome everyone to our home! Emilio, Emily and I are very happy that you’re here and we hope you very much enjoy this afternoon!
When our parents brought us to the United States as children they never imagined that the country that had opened its arms to them at a time of crisis would eventually become their country and in turn, our country. They came here to raise us in freedom and democracy so that we could thrive and learn. And that we did. We learned how to listen to and respect different ways of thinking, different nationalities, and different political ideologies.
We learned, as we watched our parents give up their homeland, their families, their history and in the case of my father who served proudly in the United States military, his life so that we could live the American Dream.
My father, a refugee from a country that is still in the stranglehold of the same oppressive government from which he rescued his family, my father, who when leaving for war said to my mother not knowing if he would ever see us again, that in a man’s life there has to be “something” that is worth fighting and dying for and for him that cause was freedom! My father, who would have been very proud to know that his little girl, years later, would be hosting in her very own home, the President of the United States, a President who just 21 days before publicly stated, “Today, I join my voice with brave individuals across Cuba and a growing chorus around the world in calling for an end to the repression, for the immediate, unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba and for respect for the basic rights of the Cuban people.” The President that is the very first African-American in history to attain this most honorable office!
Each person believes that they are living in the “best of times” and in the “worst of times”. We look around at the difficulties and challenges that our world is experiencing and we wonder (I know I do) if history has taught us “anything.” We question if there is indeed “something” still worth fighting and dying for.
Then I look at the country where I was born, a place where hope and freedom are a part of their history, not their everyday lives and I see Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a Cuban dissident and now MARTYR who gave his life on a hunger strike for the promise of a free Cuba and Guillermo Fariñas who is poised to give his life at any moment merely asking that his government free 26 other sick and dying prisoners of conscience. I see the bravery of the Damas De Blanco; women who walk peacefully, silently, heroically, yet still get beaten and arrested for simply petitioning for the freedom of their unjustly imprisoned loved ones.
I look at this magnificent country that has molded me and is now my homeland and I hear a choir of voices expressing their wishes, their desires, their demands and even their disdain for our government, freely and without consequence and I smile and quietly thank God that despite whatever problems we may be facing, we truly are a free people!
The beauty of this amazing nation is that anything is possible! Even hosting a very political evening to get the “ear” of my President when I am politically non-affiliated but the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. put it succinctly when he said “We may have all come on different ships but we’re in the same boat now!”
And regardless of where we may have come from, what color we may be, what political party we may or may not belong to I think there are definitely two things that we can all agree on; the first is that we all love this country and the second was beautifully put into words by Dr. Lawrence J. Peter, an American educator and writer, when he said, “Democracy is a process by which the people are free to choose the man who will get the blame.”
And it is my distinct honor to introduce him! Ladies and gentlemen, from one hyphenated American, I present to you, another hyphenated American, The President of the United States, Barack Obama!!
Via Francisco Chaviano González for Cambio-Debate www.cambiodebatecuba.com
At dusk, yesterday Tuesday April 14th, 2010, Cuban government’s paramilitary forces surrounded Licet Zamora Carrandi’s house. She is the Guillermo Fariñas’s spokesperson. They were there to stage what is called an “acto de repudio” (repudiation demonstration), i.e. they were there to harass, insult and probably assault Ms. Zamora Carrandi. Present at her home were opposition activists and independent journalists Carlos Valhuerdi Obregón and Rafael Pérez González, as well as Mr. Fariñas’s family doctor, Dr. Ismely Iglesias Martínez. No further details are yet available about this incident.
See note in Spanish at the link.
Efrén Fernández Fernández, Cuban prisoner of conscience
April 13th, 2010
Guanajay Prison, Havana, Cuba via www.PayoLibre.com
I was brought here in May, 2004. I remember the stories that common prisoners told me when I arrived about the beatings to Orlando Zapata Tamayo perpetrated by the authorities in the penitentiary.
Every day I could see from my window the window of his cell, which is 30 meters away from the place where I am still kept captive. We used to speak to each other through shouts and we even exchanged correspondence with the help of common prisoners who were able to avoid the close vigilance from the prison guards. This is how Zapata himself told me, in very detailed account, what “the commons” had already told me: “when I was brought to this prison in 2003, I was placed in bunker #6, where First Lieutenant Emilio Guilarte Ramírez and Sub-Officer Leonel Torres Reñí beat me savagely, causing me heavy bruising.”
And that was just the beginning of the long story of abuses against Zapata. Many times I saw his jailers take him out handcuffed and shirtless, throw him on the floor, and drag him by his feet on all 200 meters of rough concrete to the military area. This inhumane trip passed even through a graveled basketball court that would break his skin.
By the end of 2003, during a requisition, the prison guards chained Zapata, and threw him on the floor so that First Lieutenant Quintana could give him a huge kick to the head. Right after that, a swarm of guards fell on him beating with all their hatred and sadism. Around that same time, several guards handcuffed him again, and the prison warden, Lieutenant Colonel Wilfredo Velásquez Domínguez, punched him in the mouth and made him bleed while his subordinates savagely clubbed Zapata.
Our late brother was the victim of many assaults and beatings in this Prison of Guanajay. They were so widespread that even female Captain Delia, Chief Comptroller, slapped him. He was also assaulted by officer Felito, and sub-officers Alejandro, Orestes, Pileta y Reinier, among many others.
During one of the darkest nights in the Taco-Taco prison in 2006, they tortured Zapata in the punishment cell for shouting slogans and conducting a hunger strike against the mistreatment, the horrible sanitary conditions and for the respect of the prisoners’ rights. They applied the torture technique known as “la sillita”, the little chair. After beating him, they shackled his feet, pushed his arms behind his back and cuffed him, and then used another pair of cuffs to link both the handcuffs and the shackle. With his body arched in that extreme position, they left him lying on the floor for several days. He, however, did not surrender, and continued shouting: “Down with Fidel! Down with the dictatorship! Long live our human rights!”
The swarm of mosquitos and bugs, and the rats made his torture even worse, so bad that common inmates Ramón Acosta Moreno, Michel Jáuregui Pérez, Enrique González Silva, Michel Rodríguez Roldán y Jesús, aka Monín, who inhabited the surrounding punishment cells, asked the military personnel to stop it. Major Orlando, penal comptroller, promised them that he would take their request to the provincial level since, as he stated, the order to punish Zapata had come from his superiors.
Hours passed, and Major Orlando did not come back, so the inmates started shouting and making noises by beating empty plastic containers against the floor, forcing the guards to return. The prisoners threatened with joining Zapata’s hunger strike. For this reason, the guards took Zapata’s cuffs off, but that night, while everyone else slept, they surrounded his cell with guard dogs while an entire platoon of guards gave him another beating.
Nevertheless, the Cuban government was never able to silence the human rights defender, Orlando Zapata Tamayo who never faltered in his peaceful struggle for the freedom of Cuba. Even today, within this blood spattered walls, his strong voice echoes and seems to rise every day against the regime’s abuses and to defend the right of common inmates to be treated as human beings.
Efrén Fernández Fernández, 47, is a member of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Cristian Movement “Liberation”). He was condemned to 12 years of imprisonment during Cuba’s Black Spring in 2003. His family lives in Calle Clavel #582 e/ Tulipán y Concepción, Cerro, Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba.
This testimony was recorded by phone and transcribed by Tania Maceda Guerra, with the Center of Information for the Human Rights Relators Council of Cuba. It was told by Fernández on March 1st, 2010 from the maximum security prison of Guanajay.
Dissident Guillermo Fariñas's health has taken a turn for the worse probably caused by a bacterial infection. According to his wife, Clara Pérez Gómez, the independent journalist and opposition leader, complains of acute body aches and "does not even want to talk."
His family awaits the results of a blood culture, although they fear that it may come back positive for the very dangerous bacterium staphylococcus aureus. A couple of weeks ago, this bacterium caused him a severe infection that he attributed then to the unsanitary conditions at Arnaldo Milián Provincial Hospital, in Santa Clara, Cuba, in which he has been interned since March 11th.
Doctors at the hospital decided to stop intravenous feeding (water, sugars, amino acids, and other basic elements to ameliorate the consequences of his prolonged hunger strike) because of a very high fever. "Since Sunday morning, Fariñas has not received any sort of nourishment."
She added that this situation will definitely worsen the already precarious health of the dissident who refuses to abandon his hunger strike which began more than a month ago as protest for the death of another opposition activist: Orlando Zapata Tamayo.
Agenda for a Transition in Cuba, an organization to which Fariñas belongs, presented the government of Raúl Castro with a "humane" formula to end the crisis. It consists of a popular referendum so that Cubans can vote on the fate of all remaining political prisoners.
The regime, that calls Fariñas's hunger strike "blackmail", has not made any public declarations on the proposal. However, a day after it came to light, Security of State (Cuba's repressive political police) detained Rafael León Rodríguez, general coordinator of Agenda for a Transition in Cuba.
Both the PP (liberal conservative) and the PSOE (socialist) parties' Members of Congress agreed on pushing forward a non-binding resolution that asks the Spanish government "to push for a dialog with the Cuban government to obtain the immediate and unconditional liberation of all prisoners of conscience, and to put an end to Guillermo Fariñas's hunger strike."
All major political parties of center and center-right joined the resolution, as well as the PNV (Basque nationalist -non-violent) and CiU (Catalonian nationalist). All left-leaning political parties, with the exception of the PSOE, opposed the resolution. There was one abstention, Coalición Canaria (Canarian Coalition).
The Montreal Gazette today reproduces an article from The Edmonton Journal about the Ladies in White in Cuba.
The article describes how the valiant women were assaulted and heckled last Wednesday and Thursday by hordes of supposed sympathizers of the Castros' regime in Havana. The Ladies were marking the seventh anniversary of Cuba's Black Spring.
The newspaper carries the declarations of Laura Pollán, one of the group members:
"This marks seven years that our relatives have been in prison. We will not stop our march, come what may,"
More at the link.
AFP reports that US Senator Robert Menéndez, called Guillermo Fariñas, Cuban opposition activist in a hunger strike, at his hospital room in Santa Clara, Cuba.
After the phone conversation, Mr. Menéndez, a Democrat and Senator for the State of New Jersey, stated that "Individuals like Guillermo Farinas and Orlando Zapata Tamayo are evidence of the unbearable brutality of the Castro regime and the tragic state of political prisoners in Cuba," and that "Guillermo was resolute in his position that the rights of Cuba's political prisoners must be honored,"
Fariñas told the Senator that "This is a personal problem between myself and Raul Castro," the Cuban dictator who has accused the US and Europe of orchestrating a "media campaign against Cuba".
"He says that we are mercenaries, and I'm going to show that we are patriots, willing to die for our ideas," said Fariñas.
More at the link.
Guillermo Fariñas presents his formal international denunciation against the Castro regime before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rightsposted on Friday, April 02, 2010
The petition, accompanied by a dossier of human rights violations, was presented to the Commission at its offices in Washington DC by Cuban political refugees Alina Brouwer and Ricardo Boffil.
Guillermo Fariñas, a Cuban dissident who has been on a hunger strike for over a month to demand the release of all Cuban political prisoners, has presented in Washington D.C. his formal international denunciation before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against what he calls “the illegitimate government of Fidel and Raúl Castro.”
Fariñas bases his accusation on “the legislated, programmed and systematically executed violations of all universally recognized human rights against my family and me that began on January, 1st, 1959.”
The dossier is being presented before the Commission by Alina Brouwer Guerra and Professor Ricardo Bofill, both political refugees from Cuba under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and permanent residents in the United States. Bofill is a founding member of the Cuban Committee For Human Rights (Havana, 1976).
Transcription of Mr. Fariñas’s letter to the IACHR :
From Guillermo Fariñas,
I, Guillermo Fariñas, Cuban born, currently residing in the city of Santa Clara, in command of all my mental faculties, but with visibly deteriorating physical health due to a hunger strike I initiated on February 24th, 2010, and bedridden, wish to present before this Commission my formal accusation against the illegitimate government of Fidel and Raúl Castro for the legislated, programmed and systematically executed violations of all universally recognized human
rights against my family and me that began on January, 1st, 1959.
The accompanying dossier shall be presented before the commission by Alina Brouwer Guerra, Cuban, and recognized as a political refugee under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Ms. Brouwer received political asylum in Spain in 1997, and is now a legal permanent resident in the United States; and by Professor Ricardo Bofill Pagés, Cuban, political refugee, permanent resident in the United States, and a founding member of the Cuban Committee For Human Rights.
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández
Santa Clara, Cuba. March 27th, 2010