Category Archives: Human Rights

Prominent Cuban dissidents detained by state security agents

The Miami Herald

Cuban dissident Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, recipient of the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom, was taken into custody by police and state security agents Wednesday morning in Havana and briefly detained.

Miami-based Inspire America Foundation, a super PAC that supports pro-democracy leaders and policies in Cuba and the Americas, said Biscet, a former political prisoner, was picked up outside his Havana home by four police operatives and two state security agents and put into a patrol car.

By Wednesday afternoon, he was released with a warning about his activities, said Inspire America founder Marcell Felipe, who spoke with Biscet via telephone.

“While in custody he was told to give up his work and that he was getting old and that he was being watched and would go to prison if he continued,” said Felipe.

Three other dissidents — Eduardo Quintana Suárez, José Omar Lorenzo Pimienta, and Yoan Álvares — also were detained.

Inspire America said they had planned to meet in a Havana park to distribute a newsletter celebrating the 4th anniversary of the Emilia Project, a campaign to gather signatures on a document that asks for a new democratic and free parliament to be created to replace Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power and demands that a new constitution be drafted on the principles of democracy and freedom.

Biscet, who was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2007, is one of the directors of the Emilia Project and was arrested in 2002 as part of the “Black Spring” roundup of dissidents. He was sentenced to 25 years in prison but was released in 2011.

The independent Cuban news service 14yMedio also reported that Karina Gálvez, an economist and member of the editorial board of the magazine Convivencia, was detained Wednesday morning and taken to state security headquarters in Pinar del Río. Her home was reportedly searched for nearly four hours.

During his confirmation hearing on Wednesday, Rex Tillerson, President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, said that since the Obama administration’s opening toward Cuba and the reestablishment of diplomatic relations, Cuba hasn’t done enough to defend human rights.

American attorney defending Cuban dissident artist arrested, foundation says

The Miami Herald

An American human rights lawyer representing an imprisoned Cuban artist was arrested in Havana on Friday, according to the Human Rights Foundation.

Kimberley Motley was in the country to advocate for 33-year-old Danilo “El Sexto” Maldonado, a dissident artist jailed for posting a video on Facebook mocking Fidel Castro’s death. He was scheduled to attend Art Basel, but has been imprisoned without charges since Nov. 26, relatives said.

The foundation reported that Motley was led away by plainclothes security agents while she was holding a press conference outside Havana’s National Capitol around 4 p.m. Friday. Authorities also arrested dissident punk rock artist Gorki Águila and democracy activist Luis Alberto Mariño, according to the foundation.

Cuba: Ladies in White Leader Berta Soler Arrested Without Cause

Breitbart News

Berta Soler, the leader of the anti-communist Cuban dissident group the Ladies in White, was arrested on Thursday after stepping outside her home, which is also the group’s headquarters.
Witnesses say she was not dressed in white, the color her group wears to protest the government and had not apparently engaged in any objectionable activity upon her detention. She was reportedly leaving to participate in an event to discuss access to the internet on the island.

“They arrested her at the door of her home,” fellow dissident Martha Beatriz Roque told the Miami-based outlet Martí Noticias. “She was not wearing white, it is not known why they arrested her… No one knows anything because nobody could leave [the house] or interfere in it.”

The news site Cubanet, which originally reported the arrest, claimed that Soler’s husband and former political prisoner Ángel Moya was in the home at the time of the arrest but unable to go outside during the incident. Moya was “thrown on the floor and beaten” during an anti-communist protest on Sunday that triggered a mob attack on his and Soler’s home.

That protest was the first in two weeks for the Ladies in White. The group — comprised of the wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, and other female relatives of political prisoners — suspended its regular Sunday protests for two weeks following the death of dictator Fidel Castro. At the time, Soler said that she was personally “very happy” that he had died,” but “we have chosen not to take the streets so that the Cuban regime cannot say that we are provoking [our arrests] or that we are opportunists.” It marked the first time in 13 years that the Ladies in White did not protest.

In that same interview with the Spanish outlet El Español, Soler warned that the repression against Cuban dissidents would increase following Castro’s death, and that “Raúl is as much a dictator and murderer as Fidel.”

They returned to the streets last Sunday, however. Five were arrested and five placed on house arrest for holding up signs with the words “human rights” on them and demanding freedom for political prisoners.

While Soler was not arrested on that occasion, she is regularly beaten, detained, and shipped far from her home during these Sunday protests. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN), an NGO that tracked politically-motivated arrests on the island, reported that Soler was arrested three times in November alone — a number suppressed by her decision to keep the Ladies from marching following Castro’s death.

Soler’s arrest highlights a growing crackdown on the island’s most vocal anti-communist dissidents that began the day Raúl Castro announced his brother’s death with the arrest of Danilo Maldonado, a Havana artist known by his nom de plume “El Sexto.” Maldonado was arrested after celebrating Castro’s death in a Facebook Live video and spray-painting the words “he’s gone” on a wall in Havana. Following his arrest, his mother, María Victoria Machado, reported that he suspected police of sedating him in prison after repeatedly shouting “down with Raúl” from his jail cell and had refused to eat.

On her next visit to the prison this week, Machado found that her son had been severely beaten. To prevent him from attempting any protest action during International Human Rights Day (December 10), police had beaten him and kept him in solitary confinement naked, without food, for three days.

On Wednesday, Maldonado’s partner, Alexandra Martínez, arrived in Cuba. In a video from Havana, she said police refused to let her see him because “I am a foreigner” (Martínez lives in Miami) and only knew Maldonado’s fate due to poor timing on the police’s part.

“After three hours waiting… a white truck passed by with Danilo in there and he started screaming that they were taking him to El Combinado del Este,” she said. “We have not heard anything else about him, he hasn’t called.”

El Combinado del Este is a maximum security prison on the outskirts of Havana. While he has been sentenced to prison in the past for his art, this is the first time he has been transferred to such a prison. Maldonado has yet to be formally charged, though his family expects charges of defacing public property.

Dissident artist jailed in Cuba beaten and fed sedative-laced food, family says

elsexto

Fox News

One of Cuba’s most prominent anti-Castro artists is refusing to eat food served by his jailers, alleging that they have laced it with pills that induce drowsiness, those close to him say.

Danilo Maldonado, known as “El Sexto,” was taken by Cuban security agents the day after the death of former leader Fidel Castro. Maldonado, 33, still has not been charged, but those familiar with the graffiti artist’s actions that morning say
that he posted a Facebook message seemingly gloating over Castro’s death and urging people to “come out to the streets…and ask for liberty.”

Maldonado also is said to have spray-painted “El Sexto” on a wall near Hotel Habana Libre.

His girlfriend, a writer who lives in Miami, said that Maldonado has been transferred several times since his arrest on Nov. 6. Alexandra Martinez told FoxNews.com Monday that Maldonado’s mother, Maria Victoria Machado, who has been allowed to visit her son briefly twice since he has been in the custody of Cuban security police, told her that the artist was beaten the day he was taken from his apartment, as well as last Tuesday.

“He’s an artist, he’s a human being who is just using his voice” and art for peaceful expression, Martinez said. “There are still no charges. He was taken to police stations and now a detention center that is maximum security.”

Maldonado had been slated to be at a Miami premiere of an HBO documentary that features him titled “Patria o Muerte: Cuba, Fatherland or Death” last week, Martinez said.

“The Cuban authorities have a history of detaining El Sexto ahead of many planned performances, but Castro’s death appears to be the impetus for this particularly aggressive assault,” said Julian Schnabel, the producer of the HBO
documentary, in a statement quoted by the Miami Herald.

Other Cuba experts say that while Cuban authorities routinely detain prominent dissidents without pressing charges before, during or after a high-profile event, in recent years they have kept them in custody for less than a day, usually a few
hours.

They say that Maldonado’s extended detention is particularly hard-line.

“The classic pattern in the last couple of years is that police come and arrest dissidents either because they’re having a demonstration, or they’re planning to have one, and they hold them for shorter periods of time than before, and then let them
go without charges,” said William M. LeoGrande, a professor of government at American University, and co-author of “Back Channel to Cuba: The Hidden History of Negotiations between Washington and Havana.”

“The police has hit upon this as disrupting dissident activity without processing people through the justice system,” LeoGrande said. “For [Maldonado] to have been in
jail for a long period of time without charges is unusual.”

Maldonado, who is active on social media, spent 10 months in jail about a year ago after he posted a photo of two pigs with “Fidel” written on one and “Raul” on the other.

The Human Rights Foundation said on its Facebook page that the Cuban government had charged Maldonado in 2015 with “criminal defamation” for linking the Castro brothers with the pigs, which the artist had prepared for a performance of George
Orwell’s “Animal Farm.”

Amnesty International declared Maldonado a prisoner of conscience, and Human Rights Foundation awarded him the Vaclav Havel Prize for Creative Dissent after he used the pigs to portray the Castro brothers.

Why we should back Tania Bruguera’s presidential bid for a free Cuba

 

tania

The Guardian

Art is good at pointing out simple truths that otherwise get forgotten, or conveniently ignored. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera has just announced that she is running for president of Cuba when Raul Castro steps down – as he has said he will – in 2018.

There’s just one snag. You can’t run for president of Cuba. The socialist island is not a democracy but a one-party state. Bruguera’s “artivism”, as she calls it, is a satirical performance that draws attention to the embarrassing reality that Cuba’s rulers are not freely elected by the people. “Let’s use the 2018 elections to build a different Cuba,” she says, “to build a Cuba where we are all in charge and not just the few.” She says she hopes “to change the culture of fear” with her utopian bid for the presidency.
Wait a minute. Fear? The rule of the few? What can she be talking about? This does not sound like the Cuba some people so love to sentimentalise – the socialist paradise in the sun where rum is bountiful and the only cloud on the horizon is evil Uncle Sam. Acknowledging that the US is roundly criticised by the UN for its trade embargo, Cuba’s undemocratic way of running things gets a very soft ride in certain quarters. In July the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, went to an event staged by the Cuba Solidarity Campaign, which defends “the Cuban people’s right to be free from foreign intervention” – meaning the spectre, no longer very likely, of a US invasion. The Cuba Solidarity Campaign also says on its website that it opposes the US economic blockade, but when it comes to Cuba’s own democratic deficit, it has nothing to say. Instead it supports the one-party state that Bruguera accuses of instilling fear and the rule of the few.

She may be Cuban, but does she really know anything at all about Cuba? Doesn’t she know its people are happy, and that the only thing threatening their freedom is the US? Really, she needs to go to a Labour party conference fringe meeting to be re-educated by the Cuban ambassador.

And by the way, isn’t it a funny coincidence that Raul Castro has the same surname as Fidel Castro, the revolutionary leader who shaped modern Cuba ? Oh wait… Raul is Fidel’s brother. Well, surely it’s good to keep things in the family. Wise, as well, that in addition to being president of the council of state and president of the council of ministers he is also commander in chief of the armed forces. I mean, why bother separating those powers? Oh, and Raul Castro is also first secretary of the central committee of the Communist party of Cuba. In the eyes of Bruguera, this somehow smacks of an undemocratic, and even frightening, one-party state. No wonder the secret police have had to deal with her in the past.

Perhaps she is a CIA operative. Or perhaps she is a courageous dissident using the freedom of art to tell some very basic truths about her people’s desire for democracy. Just for the record, Amnesty International shares her scepticism about Castro’s glorious utopia. It reports that in Cuba in 2015/16, “severe restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and detentions were reported.” Vote Bruguera for a free Cuba.

Obama’s pick as ambassador to Cuba has ‘0% chance’ of approval, union says

delaurentis

The Guardian

While Havana welcomed the move, Republican senators pledged to block any ambassador nomination, citing lack of progress in democracy and human rights
Barack Obama has a “0%” chance of getting his nomination for ambassador to Cuba approved by Congress, according to the union representing US diplomats.

The president this week announced Jeffrey DeLaurentis as his choice to become the first American ambassador to Cuba in more than half a century, aiming to put the seal on his detente with the communist island nation.

But while Havana welcomed the move, Republican senators including Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas have pledged to block any ambassador nomination, citing a lack of progress in democracy and human rights.

Asked to rate the chances of DeLaurentis being approved, Ásgeir Sigfússon, spokesman for the American Foreign Service Association, said: “I would say 0%. With Marco Rubio on the Senate foreign relations committee, it’s never going to happen.”

Rubio and Cruz are both sons of Cuban immigrants. “They have sworn to do anything they can against the normalisation of relations,” Sigfússon added. “He might not even get a hearing.”

It is therefore a seemingly futile gesture on Obama’s part, Sigfússon said. “The president is exercising his right to be a late lame duck president trying to do everything he can. It’s symbolic. He drove through the normalisation of relations and gets to claim he’s the one who did it.”

The US and Cuba severed diplomatic ties in 1961, deep in the cold war. Obama and President Raúl Castro of Cuba made a surprise announcement in December 2014 that they had secretly agreed to restore diplomatic relations, including reopening embassies in each other’s countries. Obama made a historic visit in March, and commercial flights resumed last month.

Obama called the naming of an ambassador a “commonsense” step toward more productive relations and said DeLaurentis – currently the top diplomat at the US embassy in Havana – is the best person for the job.

“There is no public servant better suited to improve our ability to engage the Cuban people and advance US interests in Cuba than Jeff,” the president said in a statement. “Jeff’s leadership has been vital throughout the normalisation of relations between the United States and Cuba.”

He added: “Having an ambassador will make it easier to advocate for our interests, and will deepen our understanding even when we know that we will continue to have differences with the Cuban government. We only hurt ourselves by not being represented by an ambassador.”

On Wednesday, Gustavo Machín, deputy director for US affairs in the Cuban foreign ministry, described the news as “welcome” but said he will use a bilateral commission meeting in Washington on Friday to push for more.

“The Cuban delegation will point out the lack of advances in the economic, commercial sphere,” Machín said in Havana. “We consider the measures adopted by President Obama’s administration are positive but still insufficient and limited.”
Obama should also use his executive power to further narrow the trade embargo imposed on Cuba after its 1959 revolution, Machin said. “If the president could … allow investment in telecoms, why can’t he authorise investments in other areas?”

Cuba’s top diplomat in Washington, José Cabañas, was given the rank of ambassador last year.

But the battle over “our man in Havana” is already under way. Rubio said: “Just like releasing all terrorists from Guantánamo and sending US taxpayer dollars to the Iranian regime, rewarding the Castro government with a US ambassador is another last-ditch legacy project for the president that needs to be stopped.

“A US ambassador is not going to influence the Cuban government, which is a dictatorial and closed regime. This nomination should go nowhere until the Castro regime makes significant and irreversible progress in the areas of human rights and political freedom for the Cuban people, and until longstanding concerns about the Cuban regime’s theft of property and crimes against American citizens are addressed.”

Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the top Democrat on the appropriations subcommittee that oversees the state department and foreign operations, took a different view. “[DeLaurentis] is a career diplomat who is universally respected by his peers, and by Democrats and Republicans in Congress, for his intellect, his integrity, and his thoughtfulness,” he said.

“The decision to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba has been widely supported, and the number of Americans traveling to Cuba is increasing dramatically. We need an ambassador who knows Cuba, who is respected by the Cuban government, and who will stand up for US interests and values. Jeff is that person. The Cuban people have their ambassador in Washington. The American people need their ambassador in Havana.”

Since diplomatic relations were restored on 20 July last year, DeLaurentis has led negotiations with Cuba on issues including the billions of dollars in US claims against Cuba for properties that were confiscated during the revolution.

The Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, said earlier this month that, if elected, he would undo Obama’s efforts at rapprochement unless Cuba permits religious freedoms and releases political prisoners.

After a logjam last year that left numerous would-be ambassadors in limbo, the situation has much improved with eight awaiting confirmation, of whom five are expected to be approved this week, according to Sigfússon.

Cuba dissident: Fake site duped me into ending hunger strike

farinas

Fox News

Guillermo “Coco” Farinas became one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents by starving himself — launching two dozen hunger strikes demanding government concessions on human rights.

He started his 25th strike in late July with the demand that President Raul Castro halt what Farinas called the worsening repression of dissidents since Cuba and the United States declared detente in December 2014.

As the strike entered its second month, the dissident’s backers claimed he was close to death. On Monday those worries evaporated. Farinas announced he was ending his protest because the European Parliament had just voted to link improved ties with Cuba and progress on human rights. Also on the table: naming Farinas a special parliamentary adviser on civil society on the island.

The only problem: Not a word of it was true.

The “Farinas Amendment” was the creation of a faked website that masqueraded as the blog of the European Parliament for nearly a week, issuing reports widely distributed by anti-Castro Spanish-language media including the U.S. government-funded Marti news network.

“It’s really weird,” said Kristof Kleemann, the chief of staff for German member of parliament Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, whom the bogus site described as the sponsor of the “Farinas Amendment.” ”Our people tell us that the website that published this article, that this website is a fake website.”

Farinas charged that the site was a dirty trick by the Cuban government aimed at fooling him into ending a protest that was drawing too much attention. There’s no public evidence of a tie to the Cuban government or, indeed, anyone else. Because it was hosted on WordPress, a widely used blogging platform, the page’s individual registration is impossible for the public to trace.

“Creating this page was an act of espionage,” Farinas said. “They were under pressure from the hunger strike and the possibility of my dying and they created a fake page so that I would stop.”

Farinas and his camp frequently speak directly with European diplomats based in Havana but did not check Monday’s report with them before declaring an end to the strike, according to Jorge Luis Artiles, a dissident from the central city of Santa Clara who has served as Farinas’ spokesman during much of the protest. Artiles said Farinas’ camp had learned of the report in a call from backers in Miami. He declined to provide further details.

The Cuban government did not respond to a request for comment, but it has long accused Farinas and fellow dissidents of being charlatans focused on winning support from anti-Castro exiles in South Florida. Hunger strikes have been the target of particular skepticism, with government backers accusing strikers of secretly eating and drinking away from the public eye.

“There’s no precedent for Cuban authorities publishing false information of this type or imitating established institutions as we see in this case,” said Iroel Sanchez, a Havana opinion columnist and blogger with close ties to the Cuban government. “Mr. Farinas himself has been a systematic source of false information about himself and his ‘activism’ for profit, inventing all sorts of myths.”

Artiles said Farinas had been on a total “hunger and thirst” strike at home but was given intravenous nutrition and hydration after he was rushed unconscious to the hospital five times during his strike.

Farinas said the discovery that the report was fake would not cause him to restart his protest.

“In a hunger strike, once you start to drink water again, going back would be madness,” he said.

Farinas’ strike came at a critical time for Cuba’s small, factionalized community of outspoken government opponents. Once a centerpiece of U.S. policy on Cuba, traditional dissidents have found themselves on the sidelines as the U.S. abandons its support for swift regime change in favor of gradual reform. On issues from economic ties to environmental cooperation, the Obama administration is talking directly, amicably and frequently with Castro’s government.

The fake webpage has been taken down, but at least one archived copy remains available. The page was loaded with genuine articles taken from the Spanish-language section of the European Parliament site, giving a casual or inattentive reader the impression that the page was well-established. The content that is still visible was added on Sept. 5 and Sept. 6 — suggesting the site may have been built in about 24 hours or less.

“It looks very professional, but then they make all sort of technical mistakes,” Kleemann said. “They cite a certain report in that article and that report is actually a report from the trade committee in the parliament on Jordan.”

The reports about the “Farinas Amendment” were shared on social media dozens of times directly from the fake WordPress site. The first share appears to have been on Artiles’ Facebook account.

The account appears to have been active throughout the strike, posting articles supporting Farinas and bitterly criticizing the Castro government.

Artiles told The Associated Press Tuesday evening that he had not been on Facebook for nearly two months. He said he only discovered in the last week that hackers had long been in control of his account, and he alleged that the government was responsible.

“They stole my page and it’s a fraud because it’s been 56 days since I’ve been online,” he said. “They’re publishing fake news.”

Do Cuban lives matter to Obama?

farinas

Sun Sentinel, by Guillermo Martinez

Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas has met with President Barack Obama at least twice. Together they discussed the lack of personal freedom in Cuba.

That was before President Obama went on a well-deserved golfing vacation while Fariñas was in the fourth week of a hunger strike in Cuba. By the time this column is printed, Obama will be visiting the destruction caused by the floods in Louisiana —and Fariñas may be dead.

In December 2014, Obama decided he wanted his legacy to show he had improved relations between Cuba and the United States. Since then, the United States has given many benefits to the Cuban government.

American tourists are traveling to Cuba in ever-growing numbers. Cubans escape the island and come to seek refuge in the United States, only to return to the island after a year and a day. Some go to see relatives while others go to enjoy a break from the tough life they have endured in the United States.

They all take money to Cuba. This money does not end up in the pockets of ordinary Cubans. All the money American tourists and Cubans who come and go freely to the island bring ends up in the hands of the Cuban Armed Forces – charged by the Castro regime with the responsibility of collecting and spending, as they see fit, all the dollars that flow to the island.

Since Obama opened the doors to more exchanges with Cuba, the Cuban government has repaid the American president by making life harder for all those on the island who dare oppose the regime.

Dissidents are beaten, repressed and jailed with increasing frequency.

Nobody knows precisely how many are beaten or jailed, but most international human rights organizations say the number has more than doubled in the nearly two years since Obama decided to improve relations with the Castro regime.

In Cuba, Fidel Castro turned 90 years old this past week, and his brother Raul rules in much the same ruthless manner as his brother. He has made it clear he will not respond to American acts of rapprochement with any acts of kindness or making things easier for the people of Cuba.

It is an uneven deal the one Obama and the younger Castro brother agreed to in 2014. In it, the Americans give and Cuba takes all it can while at the same time it increases internal repression.

That is the legacy of President Obama in Cuba.

To be precise, his legacy is best seen in the monthlong hunger strike by Fariñas. He has said his condition for ending his hunger strike is for the Cuban government to stop beating dissidents who peacefully demonstrate for human rights.

News from the 54-year-old Cuban comes from his mother, and is circulated on the internet by those who really care about him. News of his giving up the hunger strike or dying as a result of it will make it to the main news media. But for his day-to-day condition, there is little interest in the American media.

Obama, the first African-American president, is concerned about the lives of African-Americans killed in American cities. But he cares little for the life of that brave, black Cuban man who is willing to die so others on the island will not be repressed by the lack of interest from the White House in those who dare protest peacefully in Cuba.

Yes, in the United States and to President Obama, “Black Lives Matter” as long as they are American lives. He cares little for the life of a Black Cuban.

If Fariñas dies, that will be the true legacy of President Obama’s new Cuban policy.

One Year Later: Assessing President Obama’s Failed Cuba Strategy

damas1

National Review, by Jeb Bush and Iliana Ros-Lehtinen

One year ago this month, Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Havana to celebrate the reopening of the U.S. embassy, 54 years after President Dwight Eisenhower severed diplomatic relations with Cuba’s Communist regime.

During the last year, we have seen President Barack Obama, his administration, and its extended echo chamber work exhaustively to portray the president’s misguided Cuba policy as a success. But the realities on the ground paint a different picture. We saw President Obama and Cuban leader Raúl Castro enjoy a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team with FARC terrorists in the stadium, host a jubilant joint press conference, and mingle with Nancy Pelosi, Patrick Leahy, and Charlie Rangel over a lavish state dinner at the Palace of the Revolution.

But today, despite the president’s promises to “engage and empower the Cuban people,” little has changed for those suffering under the Havana tyranny.

Dozens of protesters were arrested in Cuba just hours before President Obama’s arrival in Havana back in March. The Ladies in White, such as Berta Soler and Yaquelin Heredia Morales are still being harassed, beaten, and jailed. Sakharov Prize awardee Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas has been on a hunger strike for nearly three weeks to shine a spotlight on Castro’s human-rights abuses on the island. The regime controls the media and the Internet remains highly censored with little access to divergent views. Last month, the Obama State Department even admitted the dictatorship has failed to live up to the promises it made to broaden Internet access. At a meeting of the Cuban Communist party in April, Raul Castro denied Cuba was moving toward capitalism and continued to deride free markets and private-property rights. Elections remain far from free and democratic.

In fact, prominent leaders of Cuba’s peaceful opposition believe President Obama’s concessions to the Castro regime have been counterproductive to the fight for freedom. Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, also known as Antunez, and who spent 17 years in Castro’s gulags, has affirmed that “a vital segment of the Cuban Resistance” view the Obama administration’s policy of appeasement “as a betrayal of the aspiration to freedom of the Cuban people.”

Cuban pro-democracy advocate Antonio Rodiles, who has been arrested more than 50 times, believes repression by the dictatorship and its Communist apparatchiks is actually increasing. He recently said, “the regime is more legitimate after the change in relations with the U.S.,” adding, “Economic changes won’t bring political changes; now human rights and the promotion of democracy are not the priority of the discussion.”

As we assess the results of President Obama’s foreign-policy legacy, it is clear that Cuba, like Iran in recent nuclear negotiations, has received far more concessions from the United States than what we achieved in return. That shouldn’t come as a surprise — at every turn, the Obama administration has put politics over sound policy, pursuing photo-ops instead of pragmatic and tangible objectives.

Continue reading One Year Later: Assessing President Obama’s Failed Cuba Strategy

‘People are complaining openly in Cuba and this has never happened before’

rodilesposter

The Guardian

Leading dissident Antonio Rodiles has been arrested more than 50 times this year, but he says he has moments of optimism about political change in Cuba

Two days before he was due to meet the president of the US, Antonio Rodiles was arrested by the Cuban police.

But this was nothing new – as a democracy activist in Cuba you get to know the police pretty well. Rodiles estimates that he has been arrested more than 50 times since the beginning of the year.

I met Rodiles in his house in Havana, shortly after the US president’s historic visit. He was eventually released and met with Obama, who spent two hours with prominent Cuban dissidents and anti-Castro civil society leaders. “It was a good meeting, but it doesn’t mean we will have a good result,” Rodiles says. And yet, despite plenty of negative experiences, the activist admits that these days, he has moments of optimism.

Rodiles, a native Cuban, has been openly critical of the Castro government since his return from the US in 2010. A qualified physicist, he spent 12 years away from Cuba until he turned to political activism, concerned and frustrated by the lack of civic liberties in his country.

His activism is mainly about reclaiming public space and intellectual freedom. Last year he launched #TodosMarchamos (we all march), an initiative to exercise the right to freedom of expression and take back the streets from the government – there’s a saying in Cuba “esta calle es de Fidel” (this street belongs to Fidel).

On a smaller scale, every Thursday Rodiles hosts meetings at his house – an organisation called Estado de SATS – an open space to present art exhibitions, independent films and debates. They are “a kind of therapy session for activists,” he says.

“There’s no space like this in Cuba. It’s so important to have these kinds of events. People can come here and speak openly without limits. They can say they hate Fidel or even, well, we haven’t had anyone say they like the Castros, but they could do that here,” he jokes.

And these meetings are poignant. Ex-political prisoners are given a microphone to share their thoughts on the future of Cuba and openly discuss their experiences of their restricted life. It seems to be a lifeline for those who think differently to the Cuban communist ideology; and it is perhaps now more important than ever to continue these discussions. The invitation to meet with Obama was a recognition of their work.

Continue reading ‘People are complaining openly in Cuba and this has never happened before’