Saturday, October 14, 2017

NeverForget: Castro's misogynist regime killed nonviolent icon Laura Pollán 6 years ago

"Six years from the murder of Lady in White Laura Pollán, a regime of criminal male chauvinists is incompatible with the women of your lineage, it is condemned to fail." #LauraLives - Rosa María Payá


Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, February 13, 1948 – October 14, 2011
Five years ago today Cuban opposition leader and human rights defender Laura Pollán  died under circumstances that Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet described as "death by purposeful medical neglect."

Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, a courageous woman who spoke truth to power and protested in the streets of Cuba demanding an amnesty for Cuban political prisoners. She had been a school teacher, before her husband was jailed for his independent journalism in 2003. Laura was a figure greatly admired both inside and outside of Cuba.

However when one opposes the dictatorship in Cuba not only is their physical life in danger but their reputation is systematically slandered. The regime claimed that she was a stateless "traitor." She became ill and died within the space of a week under circumstances that raise the question of foul play by the Castro tyranny. Following her death the official media began a campaign asserting that she was a common criminal.

 Laura Pollán became a dissident when her husband was imprisoned during the Black Cuban Spring of 2003 along with more than 75 other activists and civil society members. She was one of the founders of the Ladies in White and challenged the Castro regime in the streets of Cuba. Following brutal repression, in an effort to prevent them from marching through the streets of Havana, Laura Pollan directly and nonviolently challenged the regime: "We will never give up our protest. The authorities have three options — free our husbands, imprison us or kill us. Unfortunately beginning in 2010 a new and deadlier pattern of oppression presented itself with the extrajudicial death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo.






Today let us remember the words that Laura put into action and that was nonviolent resistance to tyranny.

"They tried to silence 75 voices, but now there are more than 75 voices shouting to the world the injustices the government has committed." (2004)
"We fight for the freedom of our husbands, the union of our families. We love our men." (2005)
"They can either kill us, put us in jail or release them. We will never stop marching no matter what happens." (2010)

"We are going to continue. We are fighting for freedom and human rights.” (September 24, 2011)

"As long as this government is around there will be prisoners because while they've let some go, they've put others in jail. It is a never-ending story." (2011)

“If we must give our own lives in pursuit of the freedom of our Cuba that it be what God wants.” (September 24, 2011)

"We are not going to stop. If you have imprisoned our sisters thinking that we would give up, they are mistaken. We are very united (...) all the women's movements are very close." (October 2, 2011)
The regime in Cuba is the most misogynist government in all of Latin America. Women who speak out and exercise their fundamental rights are regularly slandered, physically assaulted and sometimes die under suspicious circumstances as Laura did six years ago today.


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Great news for US interests and taxpayers: United States pulling out of UNESCO

Kudos to the Trump Administration for pulling out of UNESCO 

The United States leaves UNESCO
The United State is pulling out of the United Nation's cultural organization UNESCO for it's anti-Israel bias, the need to fundamentally reform the organization, and to save taxpayers over $500 million dollars in payments. However that is just the tip of the iceberg and the Trump Administration should be celebrated for taking this bold move both for American taxpayers and U.S. national interests.  Back in February 2017 I made the case in this blog for the United States leaving UNESCO and staying in the UN Human Rights Council.

Ronald Reagan defunded and left UNESCO in mid 1984 because the hard left was using it to spread its anti-American and radical left ideologies but George W. Bush brought the United States back into UNESCO after a twenty year boycott believing it had reformed. Returning to UNESCO was a mistake, the organization has been back to its old tricks that are hostile both to U.S. values and national security interests.

Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, on the occasion of the withdrawal by the United States of America from UNESCO made a video statement in which she stated that "together, we have worked to protect humanity’s shared cultural heritage in the face of terrorist attacks and to prevent violent extremism through education and media literacy." She claims later on in the same statement that "[at] the time when the fight against violent extremism calls for renewed investment in education, in dialogue among cultures to prevent hatred, it is deeply regrettable that the United States should withdraw from the United Nations agency leading these issues. At the time when conflicts continue to tear apart societies across the world, it is deeply regrettable for the United States to withdraw from the United Nations agency promoting education for peace and protecting culture under attack." 


This statement flies in the face of what UNESCO has done with the United States as a member. On June 18, 2013 the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added “The Life and Works of Che Guevara” to the World Registrar. UNESCO providing funds to preserve Che Guevara’s papers. Guevara in addition to promoting communist ideology, is best known as an advocate for guerrilla warfare who viewed terrorism as a legitimate method of struggle against an enemy.

How does adding all the works of Ernesto "Che" Guevara including the "originals manuscripts of his adolescence and youth to the campaign Diary in Bolivia”  serve to promote "education for peace"? How do the multimedia archives where recordings are contained of when he first lied about exporting revolution in 1961 and in later speeches declares the sacred duty to die for revolution in 1964 advance peace? Or gems such as this: "The situation was uncomfortable for the people and for [Eutimio], so I ended the problem giving him a shot with a .32 pistol in the right side of the brain, with exit orifice in the right temporal [lobe]. He gasped for a little while and was dead. Upon proceeding to remove his belongings I couldn't get off the watch tied by a chain to his belt, and then he told me in a steady voice farther away than fear: 'Yank it off, boy, what does it matter.' I did so and his possessions were now mine. Diary entry from the Sierra Maestra on the execution of Eutimio Guerra as an anti-revolutionary spy (January 1957)"

How does making his 1961 book, Guerrilla Warfare, easily available to youth around the world promote a culture of peace?  It is a manual for organizing and carrying out an armed insurgency that draws on Guevara's experience in the Cuban revolution. It pushes the idea of the guerilla as a vanguard that creates the conditions for revolution using violence. The cover of the English edition with a hand grenade says it all. Or his 1962 work Tactics and Strategy of the Latin American Revolution in which the Argentine guerilla explains "The seizure of power is a worldwide objective of the revolutionary forces," and later goes on to explain  "that we must follow the road of liberation even though it may cost millions of nuclear war victims." But there are many other works and documents. These are just a small selection.
March 28, 1961: Mobilizing the Masses for the Invasion
April 9, 1961: Cuba: Exceptional Case or Vanguard in the Struggle Against Colonialism?
August 8, 1961: On Growth and Imperialism
September, 1962: The Cadres: Backbone of the Revolution
1963: Guerrilla war, a method [note: not to be confused with his famous 1961 book on the subject already mentioned above.]
April 16, 1967: Message to the Tricontinental
Che Guevara's last work the "Message to the Tricontinental" written in 1967 contains some gems worth sharing, or so UNESCO believes to educate new generations for "peace" such as an appeal to embracing hatred in order to do the hard things without mercy:
"Hatred as an element of the struggle; a relentless hatred of the enemy, impelling us over and beyond the natural limitations that man is heir to and transforming him into an effective, violent, selective and cold killing machine. Our soldiers must be thus; a people without hatred cannot vanquish a brutal enemy."
Later on in the same essay Guevara makes the case for terrorism.
"We must carry the war into every corner the enemy happens to carry it: to his home, to his centers of entertainment; a total war. It is necessary to prevent him from having a moment of peace, a quiet moment outside his barracks or even inside; we must attack him wherever he may be; make him feel like a cornered beast wherever he may move. Then his moral fiber shall begin to decline. He will even become more beastly, but we shall notice how the signs of decadence begin to appear."
This is a passage that could, and perhaps has, inspired ISIS or Al Qaeda and we know that Che Guevara inspired the Norwegian terrorist mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik in 2011. Breivik cited both Fidel Castro and Che Guevara in his manifesto for the amount of carnage a small number can achieve.

U.S. tax dollars would have been paying for this, but the Obama Administration froze payments in 2011 after UNESCO recognized Palestine as a full member and began an onslaught of anti-Israel resolutions.

Who will UNESCO honor next to promote a culture of "peace": Osama Bin Laden, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, or Josef Stalin?

As the world threatens to spiral down into more extreme violence, perhaps other countries should consider some of the messages UNESCO and their tax dollars are paying for in promoting the writings of Mr. Guevara. Other countries should follow the lead of the United States and Israel in leaving this institution that fails not only to protect heritage sites but hastens their destruction, and remained silent when Hamas bulldozed a world heritage site to set up a terrorist training camp in 2013 and claims to promote peace while making readily available manuals on guerilla warfare and writings that advocate war crimes and terrorism.

UNESCO maintains archives of all of Ernesto Guevara's writings



Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Debating the director of the Castro Dictatorship Support Campaign

Taking a closer look at a totalitarian network

Debating a supporter of the Castro regime on TRT World on October 9, 2017

On October 9, 2017 on the TRT World program "The News Makers" I participated in a contentious conversation on US-Cuba relations that ended up turning into a debate that hopefully generated more light than heat on the important subject of the diplomatic crisis taking place between the United States and Cuba.

My adversary on this program was Robert Miller, director of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign (CSC). The organization's name is a misnomer in reality it should be called the Castro Dictatorship Support Campaign. Douglas Dowell, a self described "liberal-minded social democrat" describes CSC as "apologists for a repressive dictatorship." CSC claims that Cuba is a democracy are even more troubling when one takes into account that Jeremy Corbyn, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leader of the Opposition since 2015 in the United Kingdom, is a long time supporter.

The organization has engaged in lobbying of British members of parliament and the results can be seen in troubling way. Following the death of Fidel Castro on November 25, 2016 Jeremy Corbyn praised the Communist tyrant a "huge figure of modern history, national independence and 20th Century socialism" and in "our lives." In August of 2017 controversy erupted when "Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell’s parliamentary private secretary (PPS) Karen Lee tweeted 'happy birthday Fidel' when she shared a message from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign." The question raised by David Tinline, a former Labour candidate for parliament, in 2005: "Why does the left still back Castro?" is even more relevant and troubling today when one considers that the Leader of the Labour party garnered 40% of the vote in the last elections.

This is part of an international network that supports the Castro regime with branches in Ireland, Scotland, Canada (Cuba Solidarity in Canada), the United States, Australia, and the list goes on. More ominously for Venezuelans, there is now a "Venezuela Solidarity Campaign" underway that in reality should be called the Maduro Dictatorship Support Campaign to install totalitarianism in Venezuela.

There are genuinely few times that I can say I debated an unapologetic supporter of the Castro regime. This was one of them, revealing to me the importance of friends of freedom organizing into more effective support networks to provide real solidarity for the oppressed peoples of Cuba, Venezuela, China, North Korea, Laos, Iran, Syria and Vietnam.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Che Guevara, communist networks, and a terrible legacy in America

 Observing the death of a war criminal and the disastrous legacy he inspired.


Che Guevara executed for trying to overthrow government of Bolivia on this day in 1967
 Ireland has issued a Che Guevara stamp on the 50th anniversary of his execution in Bolivia. In too many places he is an admired figure. The facts say otherwise. Ernesto "Che" Guevara, as Fidel Castro's right hand man, killed a lot of people and did a lot of harm in Cuba. Armando Valladares, the Cuban dissident, writer, poet and former prisoner of conscience who served 22 years in Cuban prisons starting in 1960 described him as follows: 
"He was a man full of hatred … Che Guevara executed dozens and dozens of people who never once stood trial and were never declared guilty … In his own words, he said the following: 'At the smallest of doubt we must execute.' And that's what he did at the Sierra Maestra and the prison of Las Cabañas."    
If one doubts the above observation by Valladares characterizing Guevara as a hateful mass murderer then one need only look to the Argentine guerrilla's own words embracing violence, armed struggle and "annihilating" capitalists in letters to his Aunt and parents. He was a communist who in 1953 in a letter written from Guatemala to his Aunt Beatriz reported on an oath he made, "I have sworn before a picture of the old and mourned comrade Stalin that I won't rest until I see these capitalist octopuses annihilated." In 1965, two years prior to his death in Bolivia, he wrote his last letter to his parents explaining that his "Marxism has taken root and become purified. I believe in armed struggle as the only solution for those peoples who fight to free themselves, and I am consistent with my beliefs."

The Argentine communist guerrilla did not care much for university autonomy or academic freedom and in a 1959 address to university students said as much: "A number of students denounce state intervention and the loss of university autonomy. This student sector reflects its class background while forgetting its revolutionary obligation." Fidel Castro went on to declare that the "university was for revolutionaries." Students with dissenting views or insufficient revolutionary vigor were expelled or not even allowed to enter university. This still happens in Cuba today.

Guevara did not just advocate armed struggle but the kind of mindset that guarantees war crimes and crimes against humanity.  On April 16, 1967 in his Message to the Tricontinental he embraced extreme hatred as a revolutionary instrument: “Blind hate against the enemy creates a forceful impulse that cracks the boundaries of natural human limitations, transforming the soldier in an effective, selective and cold killing machine. A people without hate cannot triumph against the adversary.” He also did not fear the use of nuclear weapons in retaliation to a conventional attack. Just days after the Cuban Missile Crises, when the world came to extremely close to nuclear armageddon, he was quoted in November of 1962 in the London Daily Worker :"If they attack, we shall fight to the end. If the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression." According to Guevara nuclear holocaust was something that should not deter a revolutionary affirming "that we must proceed along the path of liberation even if this costs millions of atomic victims.”

Cuba today is a nightmarish place where freedom is absent and lives ruined for generations but Guevara's negative communist legacy has also been felt in the rest of America and across the world.  In his 1967 Message to the Tricontinental the communist revolutionary proclaimed that to "die under the flag of Vietnam, of Venezuela, of Guatemala, of Laos, of Guinea, of Colombia, of Bolivia, of Brazil — to name only a few scenes of today's armed struggle — would be equally glorious and desirable for an American, an Asian, an African, even a European." Fifty years ago today he achieved that "goal" in Bolivia but also, along with the Castro regime, plunged the region into decades of bloody conflict. However there is one factor that often goes unmentioned that should not be underestimated or ignored and those are communist networks. 

Networks come in various guises. Transnational, regional or global networks and movements are political mechanisms of social organization. These networks are not hierarchical, with a low level of institutionalization, lack a developed bureaucracy, and have a decentralized organizational structure. They are organizational forms in which there is a horizontal flow of information and decisions are taken in a connective web. Although characterized by their "creativity", "horizontality" and "solidarity" which, in structural terms, involve the ability to adapt and facilitate participation, are neutral as to its purpose. These networks can be democratic or totalitarian but are commonly called the grassroots.  Totalitarian networks in the past have been run by Nazis and Communists to advance their respective political aims.

Brief overview of communist networks
The pioneer in totalitarian networks was Wilhelm "Willi" Münzenberg who impacted much of the 20th century. Münzenberg met the Russian communist revolutionary Lenin in Bern, Switzerland in 1915. It was León Trotsky who recognized in Münzenberg the talent to organize clandestine networks from almost nothing. He was part of the original Bolshevik network prior to the 1917 revolution. Following the arrival of the Soviets to power Lenin created the Communist International, KOMINTERN in 1919 as a means to disseminate the Soviet revolution and consolidate dominance of Marxism-Leninism over the global Left. This was the instrument that Münzenberg used to organize cultural power. The first congress of the Communist International was held on March 2, 1919 and included delegates from communist or socialist parties from Russia, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Estonia, Armenia, France, Switzerland, China, Korea, Bulgaria, Switzerland, Sweden, the United States, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia, and the Netherlands among other countries. 


Totalitarian networks and propaganda pioneer: Wilhelm Münzenberg
 In 1921 Münzenberg became the director of clandestine operations of propaganda aimed at the West. To create networks of supporters Münzenberg used all the resources propaganda from high culture to the most basic. He organized the media: film, radio, theater, books, magazines, and newspapers. He was able to connect to and use all types of formers of opinion respected by the public: writers, artists, actors, priests, ministers, teachers, businessmen, scientists, and psychologists.

Jumping to the 1950s
The Castro brothers along with Che Guevara, with the help of the Soviet Union and international communist networks, were able with great subterfuge to impost a communist dictatorship in Cuba in 1959 but that was only the beginning of their plans which was to turn the Andes into the Sierra Maestra of South America. They failed for decades, but with the arrival of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela they finally succeeded in achieving the hemisphere wide projection of power that the communist regime in Cuba had always desired. They also had designs on the violent overthrow of the United States with the objective of installing a revolutionary regime there. Ernesto "Che" Guevara advocated arming and training groups like the Black Panther Party, that came into existence in 1966, in urban guerrilla warfare.


Guevara's guerrilla struggle erupts onto the streets of the United States
Che Guevara's writings were borrowed from Mao Zedong and were all about guerrilla warfare. It is no surprise that in 1967 the American radical Stokely Carmichael in Havana, Cuba was declaring that "[u]rban guerrilla warfare is the only means by which we can win in the United States because they cannot use bombs against us, since we are inside the country. They will have to fight us in hand-to-hand combat and we will defeat them."


Stokely Carmichael with Che Guevara banner in the background

Shortly after Che Guevara's death Stokely Carmichael placed the Argentine's death in context and was quoted in Andrew Sinclair's Viva Che!: The Strange Death and Life of Che Guevara: "The death of Che Guevara places a responsibility on all revolutionaries of the World to redouble their decision to fight on to the final defeat of Imperialism. That is why in essence Che Guevara is not dead, his ideas are with us." Both Ernesto Guevara and Stokely Carmichael were exposed to Communists and their theories while teenagers and joined networks of communist agitation. Guevara's parents would host communists who had fought in the Spanish Civil War at their home in Argentina in the 1930s and 1940s. Stokely Carmichael while attending the select Bronx High School of Science in New York City became friends with the son of Communist Party leader Eugene Dennis and became active in socialist youth politics, joined a Marxist discussion group and participated in demonstrations against the House Committee on Un-American Activities that focused on communist subversion in the United States.

Stokely Carmichael, despite this background, joined the emerging Civil Rights movement led by the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who advocated nonviolent resistance as a method to achieve profound change. Carmicheal enrolled in Howard University and joined "the school's Non-Violent Action Group, a civil-rights organization. In 1961 he participated in a number of anti-segregation initiatives in the Deep South, including "freedom rides" organized by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Carmichael graduated from Howard University in 1964, with a degree in philosophy. Two years later he replaced John Lewis as head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Having taken over the organization he began to make impassioned speeches advocating for black power and steadily abandoned the Martin Luther King Jr.'s nonviolent stand. 

He told an audience in Havana: ''We are moving toward guerrilla warfare in the United States. We are going to develop urban guerrilla warfare and we are going to beat them in this field because there is one thing the imperialists do not have: their men don't want to fight, they don't want to fight what they call guerilla warfare, which is really hand-to-hand combat." The Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee on November 1, 1967 made public these statistics on riots since 1965:



The call for guerrilla warfare in the streets of American cities was generating an escalation in violence and costs in lives lost, injuries, and hundreds of millions in material losses in what Mr. Carmichael advocated as revolution. The CIA report "DISSIDENT ACTIVITY: January 1966 through January 1973" approved for release on June 19, 2003 described a dire situation in 1967 that "[a]lthough severe racial rioting had occurred in U.S. cities in previous summers, it never had been as widespread or as intense as it became in 1967. In the two cities hardest hit, Newark (26 dead) and Detroit (43 dead), conditions of near-insurrection developed in ghetto areas, and police and National Guardsmen responded with volleys of automatic weapons fire."

During his tenure as SNCC chairman, Carmichael urged African Americans to engage in urban guerrilla warfare against the United States. He stepped down from the position of chairman in May of 1967. In 1967 Carmichael was interviewed by Mario Menendez, editor of Sucesos, a Mexican magazine, while he was staying in Havana
attending the Organization of Latin American Solidarity (OLAS), a communist alternative to the Organization of American States (OAS) and made claims about the SNCC that others would reject:

  "Now, we used the word nonviolent because at that time the central figure in the struggle to defend the black race was no one less than Martin Luther King and anyone who resorted to violence was considered a traitor. Consequently we resolved to use the word nonviolent. However we knew that our struggle would end up in violence, that it was only necessary to wait for the right time. So we accepted this name for the grouping and coordinated activities from city to city, wherever we could engage in nonviolent demonstrations."
The more conspiracy minded would say that Mr. Carmichael infiltrated a nonviolent movement with the objective of moving it, as opportunities presented themselves, in a violent direction out of the erroneous belief that it would serve as the only means of effecting lasting change.


Carmichael applauds while attending Organization of Latin American Solidarity in Havana (1967).
Diane Nash, a great pioneer of nonviolence from the sit-ins to the Selma march, rejected nonviolence and took up with the siren call of Black Power. Nash described her reasoning:
"If we've done all this through nonviolence, think what we could do if we were just willing to be urban guerrillas and knock over a few banks. [...] "Of course, ten years later I looked up and I hadn't knocked over any banks and I hadn't been a guerilla. I hadn't even been to the rifle range. But I had withdrawn from this painful, creative engagement with nonviolence and democracy behind a big smokescreen of noise."
In addition to deactivating serious activists the lure of violence and urban guerrilla warfare would exact a terrible cost. According to Virginia Postrel, from 1964 to 1971, there were more than 750 riots, killing 228 people and injuring 12,741 others. After more than 15,000 separate incidents of arson, many black urban neighborhoods were in ruins. The end results were ruined neighborhoods; an explosion in crime; and increased poverty.

In 1992 a high ranking Russian intelligence officer defected to the United Kingdom and brought with him notes and transcripts compiled over the previous thirty years as he moved entire foreign intelligence archives to a new headquarters just outside of Moscow.  The Russian intelligence officer’s name was Vasili Mitrokhin and the information he gathered became known as The Mitrokhin Archive. In the groundbreaking book, The Sword and the The Shield: The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin published in 1999 details were obtained from The Mitrokhin Archive on Soviet efforts to replace Martin Luther King Jr. with a “more radical and malleable leader” such as Stokeley Carmichael to provoke a race war in the United States. Andrew Mitrokhin, in  their book,  outlined the KGB's active measures to achieve the goal of race war in America and mentioned Carmichael's visit to Cuba in 1967.
"Stokeley Carmichael, told a meeting of Third World revolutionaries in Cuba in the summer of 1967, “We have a common enemy. Our struggle is to overthrow this system . . . We are moving into open guerilla warfare in the United States.” Traveling on to North Vietnam, Carmichael declared in Hanoi, “We are not reformists…We are revolutionaries. We want to change the American system.” King’s assassination on April 4, 1968 was quickly followed by the violence and rioting which the KGB had earlier blamed King for trying to prevent. Within a week riots erupted in over a hundred cities, forty-six people had been killed, 3,500 injured and 20,000 arrested."
 Stokely Carmichael would go on to become "prime minister" of the Black Panther Party in 1968 and left for Africa in 1969 as America's cities burned following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.  Members of the Black Panther Party were reading Che Guevara's books on Guerrilla Warfare and applying it on the streets of America to deadly effect. The wreckage in places like Detroit can still be seen today.

Lamentably this pattern was repeated elsewhere. Guevara’s call to action led to the rise of new military juntas in countries that had not known them before in their history: Brazil, Ecuador, Honduras, Panama, Uruguay, and Suriname all had their first military juntas after Guevara’s Message to the Tricontinental. Other countries such as Chile who had known a military junta between 1924 and 1931 in reaction to communist threats embraced Augusto Pinochet who remained in power for seventeen years. With the exception of Nicaragua Che Guevara’s prescription for revolution in Latin America led to a generation of military dictatorships and harsh repression. In Nicaragua it led to a Marxist dictatorship, civil war and harsh repression. In Ireland the Irish Republican Army holds up Guevara as a hero and exemplar. No one should be surprised when some of his admirers in Ireland plant a 600 pound bomb to advance their revolutionary agenda. 

Communist networks the world over today are promoting the communist ideas of Che Guevara that are warmed over Maoism with a dash of tropical flavor. These ideas are destructive and end in death not only for the practitioners but for the societies unfortunate enough to adopt them. Democrats need to be energized and set the record straight in our own networks to counter this totalitarian threat.

Instead of using a Che Guevara stamp I'll be purchasing a Celia Cruz stamp and remembering a talented Cuban artist banned from Cuba because she rejected the hateful ideology Guevara and Castro imposed on the Cuban people.


Viva Celia Cruz!




Sunday, October 8, 2017

Omar Pernet Hernández: "I was tortured in Castros' jails in four processes since 1965, starting when I was turning 19."

Omar Pernet Hernández Requiescat In Pace

Omar Pernet Hernández August 15, 1945 - October 7, 2017
 Cuban dissident and former prisoner of conscience Omar Pernet Hernández passed away in Louisville, Kentucky on October 7, 2017. Beginning in 1965 at age 18 for his rebellious nature and love of freedom he was imprisoned for the first time in Cuba. Years later in an interview he would sum up his life in Cuba: "I was tortured in Castros' jails in four processes since 1965, when I was going to turn 19 years old."

Representing a delegation of the Cuban Democratic Directorate, I had the honor of accompanying Omar Pernet along with his niece, Bertha Antúnez and Aramis Perez to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva in 2009 to give testimony there on the human rights situation in Cuba.

Bertha Antúnez, Omar Pernet Hernández and John Suarez, UN Human Rights Council
We arrived in Spain, a few days beforehand, and spent a few days preparing and gathering testimony. Omar Pernet opened the doors of his modest apartment, and gave us a place to stay. Over the course of those days we talked about what had happened to him in Cuba. During his last recent imprisonment he described how doctors engaged in malpractice against him following a car accident while he was being transferred from one prison to another that left him crippled. The video is embedded below followed by a translated excerpt of the interview.


Omar Pernet: Look, the meaning of this, is that this type of boot that you see here....I will show it to you again. This boot was fitted for me in Cuba and it began to damage my hips because one, the left, is longer than the right. Then, one hip went like this 0:30 (shows the way hip is going up). Then, here in Spain, they said I couldn't go on wearing those boots, and they asked me to cut them down, and told me to make the ones I'm wearing. These I'm wearing now are stabilizing my hips.
INT: "How is it possible, since the Cuban doctors are so excellent normally, at least that's what the Cubans say, and promote throughout the world. That they should be so wrong? And hurt you so much? How many months did you stay that way in Cuba?"
OP: Well, in 2005, on the 5th of April, I began to wear these boots until the 17-18. I stayed like that until the 3rd of March of 2008 using those boots. These I'm wearing now are different, from Spain. " Stands up, 2:06, shows. "The only thing they did was to slap a cast on. They had me on a cast from the tips of my toes up to my neck for 18 months. The doctors here [in Spain] say they don't find any logic to it. That it was intolerable, the amount of time I spent in those conditions. The cast was removed twice, and each time it was to break my leg again." 
Omar Pernet Hernández was 72 years old when he passed away, a victim of cancer. He had spent 22 years in Castro's prisons for defying the communist regime and lived in forced exile for the final nine years of his life. He had been jailed in four different instances beginning with being sent to a forced labor camp for refusing military service, then jailed for trying to first leave Cuba, then jailed again for "enemy propaganda" when he denounced prison conditions, and finally sentenced to 25 years in prison for gathering signatures for Project Varela, a petition drive to reform Cuban laws to bring it in line with international human rights standards. He served five years of that sentence and was forcibly exiled to Spain unable to ever return to Cuba.

Regis Iglesias Ramirez thanked Omar "for above all the struggle for human rights that always united us."
The Castro regime claims that "[o]ur achievements in matters of penal justice and crime prevention are well recognized" is unfortunately not true. Nevertheless the truth slips out sometimes and one such time was in the pages of The Telegraph on February 23, 2008 where the British newspaper offered a succinct description of prison conditions in Cuba: "regular beatings, humiliation and arbitrary punishment with long periods of solitary confinement in cramped cells with cement beds." International human rights organizations are barred from visiting the island and even the International Committee of the Red Cross has not had access to prisons in Cuba for over 40 years, but what has emerged is evidence of widespread torture.

Omar Pernet Hernández spent a life time defending human rights in Cuba both in and out of the island. He paid a high price: prison, torture, and forced exile but never backed down or looked back with regret. He gave his testimony both as victim and witness to the horrors of the Cuban prison system under the Castro brothers.

Bertha Antúnez, Omar Pernet Hernández and Aramis Perez at the UNHRC

Thursday, October 5, 2017

#LetWomenSing: Castros' wouldn't let Celia Cruz sing in Cuba but the Queen of Salsa sang to the world

Let Celia Cruz be heard on radio in Cuba.

Let Celia Cruz's music be heard in Cuba
Freemuse in 2017 is focusing on women’s and musicians’ rights and access to cultural equality under the banner #LetWomenSing. The image they are using in their media campaign bears a striking resemblance to Celia Cruz and it is appropriate because Freemuse wants to create awareness and start a conversation about the inequality female musicians are experiencing.


Celia Cruz was and remains a nonperson in Cuba. Celia Cobo of Billboard Magazine once said "Cruz is indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music." The impact of the Castro regime on music in Cuba goes beyond jailing musicians and includes systematic censorship that threatens the island's musical legacy as has been the case with the Queen of Salsa.

According to the 2004 book Shoot the singer!: music censorship today edited by Marie Korpe there is increasing concern that post-revolution generations in Cuba are growing up without knowing or hearing censored musicians such as Celia Cruz and Olga Guillot and that this could lead to a loss of Cuban identity in future generations. This process has been described as a  Cuban cultural genocide that is depriving generations of Cubans of their heritage.

Olga Guillot's music is also still banned on Cuba radio
Later this month on October 21st the world will observe the 92nd anniversary of the birth of Cuban music icon Celia Cruz. The Queen of Salsa passed away fourteen years go on July 16, 2003 and her music is still banned in Cuba today.  At the time of her death in 2003 the Associated Press reported:

"While the death of salsa singer Celia Cruz was reported prominently in newspapers across the world, the news got scant and somewhat bitter treatment Thursday in the official media of her homeland. The Cuban Communist Party newspaper Granma reported Cruz’s death in a tiny, two-paragraph story published low on page 6 of the eight-page edition."
On August 8, 2012 BBC News reported that the Cuban regime's ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted and two days later the BBC correspondent in Cuba, Sarah Rainsford, tweeted that she had been given names of forbidden artists by the central committee and the internet was a buzz that the ban on anti-Castro musicians had been quietly lifted. Others soon followed reporting on the news.  The stories specifically mentioned Celia Cruz as one of the artists whose music would return to Cuban radio. This wasn't news but a rumor that nine years after her death her music would be played on Cuban radio, after a half century absence but they were dispelled by regime officials. On August 21, 2012 Tony Pinelli, a musician and radio producer, distributed an e-mail in which Rolando Álvarez, the national director of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television Instituto Cubano de Radio y Televisión (ICRT) confirmed that the music of the late Celia Cruz would continue to be banned. The e-mail stated:

"All those who had allied with the enemy, who acted against our families, like Celia Cruz, who went to sing at the Guantanamo Base, the ICRT arrogated to itself the right, quite properly, not to disseminate them on Cuban radio "
This e-mail refers to Celia Cruz playing at the Guantanamo Naval Base in 1990. Because she had decided to continue to play her music, as a free woman, outside of Cuba the Castro brothers barred Celia from returning to Cuba in 1962 to bury her mother who had just died. When she went to the Guantanamo Naval Base three decades later she picked up some Cuban soil, a piece of home, to take back with her into exile. 
Celia Cruz picks up some Cuban soil to take a piece of home back to exile
In October of 2015 Telemundo aired the first of an 80 part - novela on the life of Celia Cruz, the woman who would become known as the Queen of Salsa and "La Guarachera de Cuba".

Google Doodle of Celia Cruz from 2013
In 2013 Google, on the tenth anniversary of her passing, honored Celia on her birthday with a Google Doodle. In 2010 the United States Postal Service issued a postage stamp in her honor describing the Cuban artist as follows.
"A dazzling performer of many genres of Afro-Caribbean music, Celia Cruz (1925-2003) had a powerful contralto voice and a joyful, charismatic personality that endeared her to fans from different nationalities and across generations. Settling in the United States following the Cuban revolution, the “Queen of Salsa” performed for more than five decades and recorded more than 50 albums." 
Sadly, it is not only in Cuba, Freemuse is working to bring attention to the "very violent and direct restrictions women musicians face in countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan," and censorship elsewhere. Here in America we witnessed an ugly episode of censorship with the Dixie Chicks in 2003, but at least it was not government sponsored but Clear Channel played a sinister role in keeping their music out of their airwaves. However they are back on the airwaves and touring across the country. Something that Celia Cruz and other banned Cuban musicians were never able to do, not even posthumously in the island where they were born: have their music played on the radio. This is part of the terrible legacy of Castroism. The music of Celia and Olga will return to Cuba's radio airwaves one day and that will be cause for celebration. Azucar!