Tag Archives: cuban dissidents

Cuban dissident on hunger strike ‘ready to die’ to call attention to government abuse

farinas

FoxNewsLatino

On his third week of a hunger strike, Guillermo Fariñas, one of Cuba’s most prominent human rights activists, is refusing medical intervention as his health declines and says he is ready to die to call attention to the Cuban government’s abuse of dissidents.

In a telephone interview from his home in Cuba on Tuesday with Fox News Latino, Fariñas said he wants the Cuban government to stop engaging in physical assault of political dissidents.

Those who have visited Fariñas, as well as a doctor who was monitoring his condition, have told Fox News Latino and other news organizations that he suffered two fractured ribs and other injuries in July when he asked Cuban state police about the status of a detained dissident, Carlos Amel Oliva.

Fariñas, who has gone on more than 20 hunger strikes in protest of human rights violations in Cuba, immediately wrote a letter to Cuban President Raul Castro asking for an end to “abuse, terror, and violence by the repressive authorities of your government.” He decided to launch a hunger strike, and more than a dozen other human rights activists in Cuba have joined him.

Fariñas, 54, has been hospitalized twice in the last 10 days, according to the Cuban American National Foundation, an influential Miami-based lobby group that pushes for democratic reform in Cuba.

As his health has deteriorated and a weaker Fariñas spends more and more of his days sleeping, the recipient of several international human rights prizes has been visited by a representative of the U.S. Embassy in Havana and an envoy who stopped by on behalf of Pope Francis.

The Vatican envoy told Fariñas a few days ago that Pope Francis does not agree with holding a hunger strike, but respects his decision to do so.

Fariñas said he is too tired of the systemic abuses by the Castro regime and that he will sacrifice his life to get the Cuban government to take action, or the world to take human rights abuses in Cuba more seriously.

“I’m not asking them to stop detaining people, though they should stop making up bogus reasons and trumping up charges and refusing to admit that they detain people just for political reasons,” Fariñas said of what he is asking of the Cuban government. “I want them to stop beating up people who are merely protesting peacefully for freedom, for democratic reform. They also should never beat someone up when they are handcuffed or put in some other restraints.”

Fariñas, who met with President Barack Obama when he visited Havana in March, said the United States’ move to restore diplomatic relations with Cuba only has emboldened the Castro regime “by giving it validation.”

“The intentions by the president were good, I believe, but it has served to make them feel legitimized and more reckless about oppression,” Fariñas said. “If they had any good will, the Cuban government would have taken steps toward democratic reform and liberties for everyone, the Cuban citizenry and critics of the government. But instead, the regime is acting with impugnity.”

Fariñas wants the Obama administration to freeze diplomatic relations so long as the government continues to crack down on dissension.

A U.S. State Department spokesperson said to Fox News Latino on condition of anonymity that it is keeping track of Fariñas’ health, and has contacted Cuban authorities about its concerns regarding the activist. A U.S. Embassy staffer went to check on Fariñas at his home on Monday.

“We remain concerned about the physical wellbeing of Guillermo Fariñas, Carlos Amel, and other activists engaged in a hunger strike in Cuba,” the State Department official said in a statement. “We are monitoring their situation closely.”

“We stand in solidarity with those who advocate for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly,” the official said. “We have raised our concerns directly with the Cuban government, both in Washington and Havana.”

Fariñas has dropped nearly 30 pounds since he began his hunger strike in July, said fellow dissident Jorge Luis Artiles Montiel, who has been acting as spokesman for Fariñas and others holding hunger strikes.

Fariñas’ mother, who is a nurse, is monitoring his vital signs, Artiles Montiel told Fox News Latino.

“His blood pressure is low, his pulse is slow, his heart rate is low,” he said. “He doesn’t want food or anything. At the hospital they had an IV pumping fluid into him, but he didn’t want it.”

“He wants no more medical intervention, even if his condition deteriorates and he loses consciousness. He told us not to call for help if that happens. But of course we will, how can we not? His health is in peril.”

The Cuban government has force-fed hunger strikers in the past. The United Nations considers force-feeding hunger strikes a human rights violation.

In 2010, Fariñas held one of his most watched hunger strikes as the Cuban government was in talks with the Spanish government about releasing political prisoners. The government released 116 political prisoners, many of whom were offered exile in Spain. Fariñas was one of them, but refused, saying – like some other dissidents – that he would not grant Cuba’s wish to rid itself of critics by banishing them to other countries.

Besides the U.S. State Department, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a Florida Republican of Cuban descent, several international human rights organizations, and U.S.-based groups that advocate for democratic reform in Cuba all have expressed concern about Fariñas.

Fariñas has been honored around the world for his human rights activism. Among the honors is the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2010.

Cuban activist interrupted a live ESPN broadcast from Havana and was arrested

ESPN’s Sportscenter sent Bob Ley down to Cuba to report live from Havana.

While Ley was reporting the results of the game between the Tampa Rays and Cuba’s National Team, he was interrupted on the set by a political protester, who began throwing pamphlets in the air and spreading his message over the airwaves.

Ley tried to push the protester out of view, but it was to no avail and he would get out of the way immediately and send the feed back to the game.

The protester and a companion were arrested by Castro’s police a few minutes after the incident, broadcast live around the woorld.

The violent arrest minutes later by Castro’s goons:

IBD: Obama’s Cuba Trip Showing Signs Of Imploding

Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, a Cuban dissident and former political prisoner also known as "Antunez"
Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, a Cuban dissident and former political prisoner also known as “Antunez”

Investor’s Business Daily

Diplomacy: President Obama’s “historic” trip to communist Cuba is showing signs of falling apart. Far from the beisbol and mojitos junket that the president’s PR team is selling, disputes are all over, starting with which dissidents the regime will let the president see. It goes to show what a bad idea this was.

Making the first visit to the island since the Coolidge administration, President Obama’s public relations men are touting a host of fun-filled photo-op activities, such as a “shared love” of baseball, as well as new State Department talks with the Castroites “on cybercrime,” as Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes tweeted, apparently naive to the fact that any hackers in Cuba are agents of the Cuban government.

In reality, there are signs of trouble all over with the March 21 visit. After all, this is not a normal relationship. The Cuban government’s goodwill toward the U.S. is nil, even as Obama showers goodies on them and caves in to their every demand. A presidential visit is the last thing they deserve.

Yet the administration justifies the junket by saying the president’s trip will “advance our progress and improve the lives of the Cubans,” as White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough tweeted in Spanish. And indeed that’s an echo of President Obama’s original precondition to not visit Cuba until the Castroites improve the rights of Cuba’s citizens — who are fleeing the island in droves now, out of fear the Obama-Castro bromance will lead to an end of their migration privileges, a topic seemingly ignored. Notice the verbal sleight-of-hand: The Obama administration has subtly shifted its goal to now say the trip itself will improve the conditions of Cubans.

For Cubans, there have been nothing but problems. For one, dissident arrests have risen fivefold since Obama announced the normalization of ties in late 2014. Some “improvement.”

Now there’s even a question of which critics of the regime Obama will be allowed to meet in Havana. In repeated messages, Obama has stated that he wants to meet Cubans from “all walks of life” to justify this trip to Americans.

The situation got so bad last week that Secretary of State John Kerry canceled his preparatory trip to Cuba after Cuban officials told him which Cuban dissidents President Obama could meet — and which ones he couldn’t. It was a valid reason to call off a trip. Heads of state in countries with normal relations don’t tell each other who they can meet.

But President Obama’s trip is still a “go,” even as Cuba’s henchmen dictate which dissidents he can see — and which will wind up in prison to keep them out of sight.

This is now a pattern. At the U.S. embassy opening in Havana last summer, Cuban dissidents were kept away to please the regime, while the U.S. public was told there was no room for them — as reporters (such as CNN’s Jake Tapper) tweeted pictures of wide open space and empty chairs. It was an obvious lie.

At a minimum, the President should be shaking hands with Berta Maria Soler, who leads the wives of imprisoned dissidents group called Ladies in White, a group whose members are routinely beaten and jailed every time they walk the streets to church to remind people of their husbands. Jorge Antunez Perez, an Afro-Cuban leader who has been assaulted and jailed for speaking out against the Castroites’ Bull-Connor-style discrimination against black Cubans, also belongs in the list. Rosa Paya, whose dissident father was murdered by Castro’s agents in a “car accident,” merits a presidential visit, too. So does Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, thrown into Castro’s dungeons for years for advocating nonviolent resistance inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King.

Even the “beisbol” issue reeks of tyranny: The Washington Post reported that the Obama administration and Major League Baseball have been in private talks for months with the Castro regime to let more Cuban players come to the U.S. to play here. But many already come here, by escaping Castro. These talks sound like a way to give Castro a cut of the players’ high professional earnings. Just another way that the Castro dictatorship leeches off its own people. Workers in Cuba, remember, have no rights, not even the right to their own earnings.

If this isn’t a Potemkin trip in the making, what is?

Will Obama dump dissidents for baseball in Cuba?

activista

The Washington Post

The White House is said to be thrilled that President Obama will attend a baseball game when he visits Cuba two weeks from now: The matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and a Cuban team will provide a splashy exhibition of the warming relations with the Castro regime. There’s still no word, however, about a promised presidential meeting with Cuban dissidents, the brave women and men whose fight for democratic freedoms in one of the world’s most repressive countries is less glamorous — and more dangerous — than Major League Baseball.

So let’s be clear: Notwithstanding Mr. Obama’s expectation that Cuba will “be fun,” his visit will be an ignoble failure if he does not have a meaningful encounter with the island’s most important human rights activists.

The risk of such an outcome seems to be rising. Administration officials who said Mr. Obama would choose whom he met when he is on the island are now conceding that Cuban officials are trying to prevent him from seeing true opposition leaders. Instead they are proposing that Mr. Obama gather with regime-approved members of “civil society,” perhaps with a couple of moderate government critics mixed in. The disagreement reportedly contributed to a decision by Secretary of State John F. Kerry to cancel a preparatory trip to Havana last week.

The Castros’ resistance is understandable. A direct meeting between Mr. Obama and leaders such as Guillermo Fariñas, the winner of the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for human rights, or the Ladies in White, another winner, would give a big boost to their cause. It would legitimize their demands for free speech, free assembly and freedom for political prisoners and put pressure on the regime to respond to them. It would give hope to Cubans that Mr. Obama’s engagement with their country might bring about long-overdue change.

What the Castros hope is that Mr. Obama instead will focus on baseball and new U.S. steps to bolster the Cuban economy, such as allowing use of the dollar. That would divert attention from the fact that repression in Cuba has not eased in the 15 months since the diplomatic thaw began; in fact, it has gotten worse. Dissidents who tried to meet with Pope Francis during his recent visit were detained or beaten. Will those who try to approach Mr. Obama meet the same fate? Any critic who manages to get into a “civil society” meeting such as that proposed by the regime would be drowned out by its loyalists.

As so often in its dealings with the Castros, the administration sacrificed leverage by announcing the presidential visit before the terms for a meeting with dissidents were agreed on. That makes it harder to insist on the gathering that should take place: a small, focused dialogue with internationally recognized advocates of democracy and human rights. Still, if the White House pushes as hard to see Mr. Fariñas and the Ladies in White as it has for the Tampa Bay Rays, it should succeed. If not, Mr. Obama can and should call off his trip.

Cuba open, not free

activista

The Cavalier Daily

President Obama is not doing enough to secure basic human rights for the Cuban people

On Nov. 22, 1963 French journalist Jean Daniel ate lunch with Fidel Castro in Varadero Beach, Cuba. He was delivering a message of potential reconciliation from President John F. Kennedy to the Cuban prime minister — “an indication,” as Castro would recall, “of a desire to establish contact… to establish a certain kind of communication.” As Daniel and Castro were discussing the possibility of better relations, the telephone rang and Fidel received the news that the president had been shot. “Everything has changed. Everything is going to change,” Castro said. And he was right.

Although not always publicly, and most of the time covertly, each administration since Eisenhower’s has attempted to reestablish connections between Washington and Havana. And with the recent reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana, we can say significant progress has finally been made. President Barack Obama has defended his engagement policy with Cuba, claiming that “through a policy of engagement, we can more effectively stand up for our values and help the Cuban people help themselves.” While Obama’s engagement policy with Cuba has removed many market barriers, the island still seems to be imprisoned by a repressive regime that has little consideration for basic human rights.

Opening telecommunications, increasing tourism and embracing foreign culture into the island are all signs that Obama’s policy of engagement has resulted in a Cuba with less restrictions and barriers. Cuba has become an island of great attraction to many tourists and artists from the United States. It has received millions of dollars due to more U.S. tourism and remittances. Yet the humanitarian conditions in the island don’t seem to show any signs of improvement. Although not as frequently as before, journalists continue being silenced, critics of the regime are persecuted and individuals voicing their concerns are being detained.

When the president began the normalization of relations between Havana and Washington, one of the arguments presented by the White House was that an embassy in Havana would provide U.S. diplomats more freedom and flexibility to move around the island than the previously established “interests section.” However, according to Cuban dissident Antonio G. Rodiles, U.S. diplomats are being seen less than before around the island, and concerns about human rights have been “sidelined” when it comes to U.S. policy towards Cuba.

But the United States supposedly has a reason for this. According to Obama, this process of normalization will be a “long journey.” Yet the Castro brothers seem unwilling to embark on this journey towards normalization, keeping a tight grip on the economy and society as a whole. They only seem to be preparing the perpetuation of their regime by passing down the baton of power to their respective heirs with no signs of doing away with violence and coercion to repress free-speech.

Additionally, Raul Castro’s increasingly popular role in foreign affairs is a sign that the world is starting to recognize the legitimacy of the island’s president. “Raúl Castro has been legitimized and recognized by the majority of the governments of the planet, and played a leading part in a Summit of the Americas, amid flashing cameras and meetings with Barack Obama,” Yoani Sanchez wrote in The Washington Post. This is not only perpetuating the repressive Castro regime within Cuba — it’s also approving of it.

Despite Castro’s increasing popularity among political and social elites throughout the world, harassment, arrests, beatings and intimidation against critics have shown no sign of stopping. According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, Raul Castro has kept Cuba’s “repressive machinery” in place instead of dismantling it. According to Sanchez, several generations of journalists and other information professionals have had to approach their work through “censorship, ideological propaganda and the applause of power.”

While Obama’s policies of engagement with the island have resulted in the positive lifting of market barriers and reduction of restrictions in tourism, they have undeniably left a huge hole when it comes to addressing the island’s humanitarian crisis and deeply repressive regime. Before facilitating Cuba’s reintroduction to world market and letting an influx of cash enter the government’s coffers, Obama needs to ensure the Castro regime is taking the necessary measures to improve the humanitarian conditions of which the Cuban people are deprived.

The nation of Cuba is an island with a long history and of tremendous potential for economic, cultural and social fortune. Lifting market-based barriers and restrictions has proven to be helpful for many tourists and cultural artists, but has simultaneously left the Cuban people in the back shadows of U.S. policy toward Cuba. Hopefully, the United States will recognize the need to shift its policies toward Cuba from solely market-based open policies to humanitarian, social and economic policies that will actually put Cuba in a path to modern success.

Mary Anastasia O’Grady: Cuba’s Democrats Need U.S. Support

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal

Obama has helped the dictatorship but ignored the dissidents.

violence

Cuban dissident leader Antonio Rodiles has been harassed, beaten, imprisoned and may have been injected with a foreign substance—more on that in a minute—by Castro goons. Yet he is calm and unwavering: “They are not going to stop us,” Mr. Rodiles recently told me over lunch here with his wife,  Ailer González.

Soviet-style Cuban intelligence is trained to crush the spirit of the nonconformist. Yet the cerebral Mr. Rodiles was cool and analytical as he described the challenges faced by the opposition since President Obama, with support from  Pope Francis, announced a U.S. rapprochement with Castro’s military dictatorship in December 2014.

One of the “worst aspects of the new agenda,” Mr. Rodiles told me matter-of-factly, “is that it sends a signal that the regime is the legitimate political actor” for the country’s future. Foreigners “read that it is better to have a good relationship with the regime—and not with the opposition—because those are the people that are going to have the power—political and economic.”

The Cuban opposition is treated as superfluous in this new reality. U.S. politicians visiting the island used to meet with dissidents. Now, Mr. Rodiles says, “contact is almost zero.” When the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana last year it refused to invite important dissidents like Mr. Rodiles or even  Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, to the ceremony.

Mr. Rodiles said the mission of pro-democratic Cubans is critical and urgent: “We need to change the message,” making it clear that the regime is “not the future of Cuba.” And this, he says, is the defining moment.

If the Castros hope to transfer power to the next generation—be it to Raúl’s son Alejandro or a Cuban  Tom Hagen—as Russia’s KGB forced  Boris Yeltsin to yield to KGB veteran  Vladimir Putin, they need to do it soon.

Yet at the same time, Mr. Rodiles says, “if they give the country to their families in the condition it is in right now, it will be like handing them a time bomb” about to go off. That’s why, he tells me, this is a unique opportunity for freedom to emerge: The odds of successfully passing the baton in the current economic meltdown are low.

Or at least they would be if Mr. Obama were not offering the regime legitimacy and U.S. greenbacks while refusing to officially recognize the opposition.

Mr. Rodiles has a master’s degree in physics from Mexico’s Autonomous National University and a master’s degree in mathematics from Florida State University. The 43-year-old returned to Cuba in 2010 and is a founder of Estado de SATS, a project to “create a space for open debate and pluralism of thought.”

The police state views this as dangerous and has come down hard on the couple. Amnesty International was among those that called for his release when he was jailed in 2012 for 19 days. In July a state-security agent punched him in the face while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

On Jan. 10 he and Ms. González, along with other government critics, were again attacked by a rent-a-mob on the streets of Havana. This time they were left with what looks like identical needle marks on their skin.

Those wounds are worrisome. More than once the former leader of the Ladies in White,  Laura Pollán, was left with open wounds after being clawed and scratched by plainclothes government enforcers. After one such incident in 2011 she mysteriously fell ill and died in the hospital. The government immediately cremated her body and the dissident community has long suspected that she was intentionally infected with a fatal virus by the regime.

Under normal circumstances, the Castro family would have reason to fear the future. Totalitarian regimes collapse, Mr. Rodiles reminds me, “when the people inside the system, not just the elite, but the people who are in the middle, the ones who sustain the system, start to go and look for another possibility.” They do this because they recognize the future is elsewhere so they “move or at least they no longer cooperate.”

Today young Cubans are looking for that alternative. The regime’s promise to Mr. Obama of economic opportunity and growth through small-business startups is a farce because the Castro family operates like a mafia, “and always has,” says Mr. Rodiles. To do well in the current environment the young have to join the system, or else they flee.

Those who join are not ideological but only seek power. “If we can show that we are the ones with the power to transform the country, then these people for sure are going to prefer to be with us.”

Failure is unthinkable for Mr. Rodiles. “We cannot allow the transfer of power because if they transfer the power, we can have these people for the next 20 or 30 years.”

Political Repression Increase in Cuba Criticized by Opposition Group

derechoshumanos

Latin Post

A known opposition group in Cuba, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, recently released its latest report on the increased political repression happening in the communist government.

In light of the recent actions by Washington and Havana diplomatic reconciliation, according to AFP, which freed five dissidents, the group urged that the government has sustained the political repression last 2015.

According to the report of the opposition group, which is known to be outlawed but tolerated in Cuba, they clarified that the five of the 53 listed prisoners, as part of the reestablishment of the Cuban-U.S. diplomatic relations, were freed but were previously “confined in high-security prisons in the second half of 2015.”

The group also stressed that the five prisoners — Wilfredo Parada Milian, Jorge Ramirez Calderon, Carlos Manuel Figueroa, Aracelio Ribeaux Noa and Vladimir Morera — were jailed “as a result of rigged trials and without due process.”

Furthermore, Morera was in a hunger strike for the past few months starting Oct. 9, 2015 and just started eating again on Dec. 31, 2015.

“All I know is that he is eating again, and that he is speaking incoherently because the doctors say he was very weak,” Morera’s son said as quoted by the news agency.

And while the Cuban government remains silent on the matter, the commission reports that in January 2015, there have been 178 cases of political arrests. Meanwhile, throughout the past year until December 2015, the commission reported 930 arrests for political reasons, which is considered the third highest number of the year, EFE reports.

The group further clarified that the repressive acts include “acts of vandalism and the extrajudicial confiscation of toys for distribution to poor children, plus the seizing of cash, computers, cell phones and other legally acquired work devices from detained opposition members.”

The commission revealed that the country has encountered an increasing amount of “poverty and despair” because of such political repressive actions and that the people have been illegally migrating to other places away from Cuba to escape the troubled situation.

According to the news agency, the Cuban government has considered the commission as the most dissident since the U.S. funded mercenaries. The most current news from the dissident group revealed that “political repression” continued in 2015 “despite the well-known expectations awakened by the announcement of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations” between Havana and Washington, AFP reports.

No further statements have been released from the Cuban government.

Political Prisoner ‘Freed’ by Cuba Deal on Day 81 of Prison Hunger Strike

BreitbartNews

Vladimir Morera Bacallao, a Cuban dissident allegedly freed as part of President Obama’s deal with Cuba but sentenced to four years in prison shortly after being released, is currently on his 81st day of a hunger strike that has left him in critical condition.

“He does not recognize us,” his wife told the U.S.-based Martí noticias, and is in extremely grave condition in a hospital in Villa Clara. He reportedly weighs 93 pounds, and relatives expressed little hope for his survival. “He is very grave… [but] they say he is a prisoner so we are not allowed to see him,” Morera’s sister told AFP.

Morera was arrested in April for hanging a sign on his window condemning the communist Castro dictatorship. The sign read “I vote for my freedom, and not in one of those elections where I can’t even choose a president.” The sign was mocking Cuba’s legislative elections, in which only Communist Party officials are allowed to compete. After his second arrest, family members described the incident, noting that his children and wife were also beaten by state police.

Morera had been freed in January from prison, where he was serving an eight-year sentence for defending a fellow dissident from a violent communist mob, as part of President Obama’s “normalization” deal with Cuba. International supporters of the Cuban government and human rights groups that oppose isolating the Castro regime celebrated the liberation of 53 political prisoners that months as a sign that President Obama’s attempt to make concessions to the regime would help dissidents. Most of those dissidents, however, have been rearrested for crimes similar to Morera’s act of disobedience.

State Department spokesman Mark Toner issued a statement saying the United States is “profoundly concerned” for Morera’s health.

In the year since President Obama announced that the United States would make a series of concessions to dictator Raúl Castro, including removing Cuba from the list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, in exchange for, in the words of Castro, “nothing at all,” the situation for political dissidents has deteriorated significantly. In addition to the re-arrests of dozens of prisoners of conscience, leaders of dissident groups such as the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and the Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) are arrested on an almost weekly basis, most for attending Sunday Catholic Mass. Political arrests increased by 70 percent between January and March 2015 in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. The announcement also triggered a flood of Cuban refugees attempting to flee to Central America, fearing that the Obama administration would repeal the Cuban Adjustment Act, which allows the federal government to treat all Cubans as political refugees. About 8,000 Cuban nationals are currently stranded in Costa Rica after relying on a human trafficking ring shut down by the Costa Rican government.

Morera previously survived a 68-day hunger strike in April 2014, which he was forced to end after doctors found a tumor in his stomach.

Dissidents using Twitter have reported that a congregation of anti-communist activists that had gathered in front of the hospital currently treating Morera have been violently arrested.

Cuban Activist Freed in Obama Deal, Then Arrested Again, Now in Grave Condition

savebacallao

PJ Media

The Obama administration is calling on the Cuban government to free a political prisoner — one of the dozens released from prison a year ago as a rapprochement gesture, only to be re-arrested a few months later.

Vladimir Morera Bacallao, 53, is reportedly near death due to the hunger strike he started behind bars in October.

Morera Bacallao, a labor activist, was arrested in April in the run-up to the regime’s sham municipal elections for posting a sign outside his home stating: “I vote for my freedom and not in an election where I cannot choose my president.”

A month ago, he was sentenced to four and a half years behind bars.

Around the same time, another one of the political prisoners whose release was hailed by the Obama administration as a grand gesture of the Castro regime toward human rights was sentenced to another prison term. Jorge Ramirez Calderon received two and a half years behind bars for “joining a peaceful protest asking for improved sanitary conditions and water in his community,” the State Department acknowledged at the time.

“Respect for human rights is a cornerstone of our foreign policy, and we call on the Cuban government to respect its citizens’ rights to free expression and peaceful protest,” the State Department said Nov. 24.

Morera Bacallao was transferred from his prison cell to an intensive care unit last week. At today’s State Department briefing, spokesman Mark Toner told reporters the activist is in “very serious condition.”

“The United States is deeply concerned about the deteriorating physical condition of Vladimir Morera Bacallao, who has been on a hunger strike since October to protest his imprisonment for peacefully expressing political dissent,” Toner said. “Mr. Morera Bacallao was one of 53 prisoners of concern released shortly after the December 2014 announcement of the president’s new policy direction on Cuba, but detained again in April of 2015 for hanging a sign outside his home in protest of municipal elections.”

“…The United States urgently calls on the Cuban government to release Mr. Morera Bacallao.”

Amnesty International noted on Dec. 10 that 1,477 arbitrary politically motivated arrests by Cuban officials in November — “the highest monthly total in many years.”

“For weeks on end, the Cuban authorities have used a spike in arrests and harassment to prevent human rights activists and dissidents from protesting peacefully,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) noted that during President Obama’s time in office “activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza died under uncannily similar circumstances” as hunger-striking Morera Bacallao. “Activists Laura Pollan and Oswaldo Paya also perished at the hands of Castros’ thugs during this administration.”

“Morera Bacallao has risked everything for the basic right to have a voice in his government. His unjustifiable imprisonment and mistreatment are further indictments of the brutal malevolence of the Castro regime, and the utter failure of Obama’s appeasement of Cuba’s dictators,” Diaz-Balart wrote on his Facebook page. “I urge human rights organizations and the Obama administration to bring attention to the urgent case of Vladimir Morera Bacallao, and to demand that he receive immediate medical attention. We must not remain silent while another courageous activist hovers on the brink of death.”