Aid civil society for a ‘Cuba without shackles’

cuba - civil rightsOver the past 30 to 40 years, Latin America has experienced a series of political transitions to governments chosen by the people, open to information, and to democracy. This has since been the policy of the United States toward Latin America, says Jaime Suchlicki, Director of the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies.

The United States’ strategy toward Cuba is the same it employed in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Cuba is an enemy state; it supports terrorism, traffics in humans disguised as humanitarian programs that send reluctant doctors, nurses and workers overseas. Cuba is a friend of Iran, Syria, North Korea, Russia, and, of course, Venezuela.

To assume that the United States will change its policies without first obtaining concessions from Cuba shows a lack of understanding of international relations. For the U.S. to change its Cuba policy, Cuba has to change too…..The issue at hand is that the Cuban regime refuses to provide concrete and real concessions. But then again, no totalitarian government is willing to offer concessions that lead to their demise such as uncensored Internet access, open political processes, or free elections.

For example, in Chile General Pinochet was willing to carry out a popular referendum which he lost and as a consequence opened the democratic process. General Raul Castro’s government is not willing to do so……

What does the Cuban government want? Raul Castro’s government wants:

  1. The unilateral ending of all travel restrictions.
  2. Access to more credits to purchase products in the U.S. and in other countries.

Yet Cuba has not repaid credits provided by Venezuela, France, Spain, and even the former Soviet Union, among other countries. Cuba is not willing to open the political process, allow uncensored Internet access, or change the political system in exchange for these concessions.

Cuba is not isolated; instead it has partnered all over the world with its allies Venezuela, China, Russia and Iran. The Castro brothers do not want the U.S. involved in Cuba’s internal affairs.

Let’s take a look at the efforts from outside of Cuba to promote real change. We have to begin by remembering during the Cold War, the U.S. promoted several activities in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union:

  1. Radio Free Europe
  2. Smuggling information inside Russia, and Eastern Europe
  3. Support for Poland’s Solidarity movement
  4. Support for Poland’s Catholic Church.

In fact, I do not recall any Eastern European exile saying, “I want all restrictions lifted so I can invest in Poland,” or “I want to send more packages there,” or “I want more tourists to travel to Poland because they are going to change the system.”

To those who think American tourism is going to change Cuba, I propose to open a travel agency to send tourists to North Korea. No one thinks that tourists will make a difference there so why would they make a difference in Cuba?……

Another important topic that should be discussed and publicized is the exploitation of the Cuban worker by the State and by foreign companies. Cubans are modern day slaves of foreign investors and the Castro government. Foreign companies pay the Cuban government in hard currency and the government pays the workers in convertible pesos, keeping 90% of the foreign payments.

Why doesn’t the United Nations or the American government condemn this practice? Why don’t they point out that only fair skinned Cubans are hired by foreign companies? Or that white, not black, Cubans receive most of the Cuban-American remittances? Or where are the programs that are supposed to help black Cubans?

We should use our resources to help Cubans inside the island, to help the civil society, penetrate the political systems and provide information. …I find it ironic that some Cuban-American entrepreneurs that have made money in the U.S., and benefited from a free society, rule of law and democracy, are embracing insignificant economic changes in Cuba, in the hope that it will lead to a political change; even when it means engaging with the current system.

Cubans have to have control over their businesses and freely choose their government. It is the people that should choose their own representatives, in free elections, Cuba’s future political system. We must have a vision of a democratic Cuba. It does not matter if it takes 10 or 20 more years. I may not see it but my children will.

RTWT

This excerpt is taken from Professor Jaime Suchlicki’s presentation during the “Acciones y Opciones para el Empoderamiento de la Sociedad Civil en Cuba” Forum.  This event was hosted by the Foro de Promoción Democrática Continental (FPDC) on June 28, 2014 at Florida International University’s College of Law.

Note: to watch videos of the forum in Spanish visit the Cuba Transition Project (CTP) website at http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/main.htm, and click on “New/Relevant.”

*Jaime Suchlicki is Emilio Bacardi Moreau Distinguished Professor and Director, Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. He is the author of Cuba: From Columbus to Castro, now in its fifth edition; Mexico: From Montezuma to the Rise of PAN, now in its second edition and the recently published Breve Historia de Cuba.

Amid growing dissent, Cuba takes repressive turn

cuba perezPolitical dissent is one the rise in Cuba, says a leading expert.

“If by dissent one means people who are out on the streets demanding a change in the political regime, there’s a lot more than there used to be in the 1980s and 1970s, but there’s not a lot,” according to Harvard University’s Jorge Dominguez. “If by dissent one means they disagree with the policies of the Cuban government on topic x, y, or z and are prepared to say so, that actually happens now with increasing regularity,” he told CNN’s Global Public Square.

Today, Cuban democracy leader, Yris Perez Aguilera, wife of former political prisoner, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez,” was received by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) below, Capitol Hill Cubans reports:

The president of Cuba’s Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement had a clear message for the Congressional Black Caucus.

“They should look closely at Cuba’s Council of State, and see how many black Cubans they find there,” Perez said:

A quick glance at the pictures of Cuba’s top government body on their own website reveals that only eight out of 31 are black, and there’s only one black Cuban in the top echelon constituted by seven vice presidents and President Raul Castro.

While racial figures are hard to come by, mainly because Castro’s own figures distort the island’s ethnic makeup (its latest claim that the black population was 10 percent and the white population 65 percent is risible), visitors report that the population that is black or mixed is now a majority. The Economist put it this way in 2008: “Mr Castro’s Cuba is a sad place. Although the population is now mainly black or mulatto and young, its rulers form a mainly white gerontocracy.”

“Around 75 percent of the people in prison are black,” said Perez. “Black Cubans have no rights.”cuba perez 2

Perez would like to meet with members of the CBC while she’s here in Washington to explain to them Cuba’s realities. ….

“While I was languishing in prison, they paraded around Havana. My sister tried to deliver a petition asking them to come and visit me. They didn’t even accept it,” said Perez, who’s married to Cuba’s best known dissident, Jorge Luís García Perez, known as Antúnez and also as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela. Jorge Perez also constantly suffers imprisonment and beatings at the hands of the regime.

Eight years after General Raul Castro took the reigns as Cuba’s dictator-in-chief due to his older brother Fidel’s illness, he is portrayed by those seeking to normalize relations with Cuba as a reformer,’ but, the facts tell a different story, writes Mauricio Claver-Carone:

If eight years ago, we would have predicted that the Cuban regime under Raul Castro would be resuming military-intelligence gathering operations with Russia at the Lourdes Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) facility near Havana – we would have been dismissed as “Cold Warriors.”

If we would have predicted that the Cuban regime would be caught red-handed smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea – the largest weapons cache discovered since U.N. Security Council sanctions towards the Kim regime were enacted – we would have been derided as instigators.

If we would have predicted that the Cuban regime would wrest political and operational control of the most resource-rich nation in Latin America, Venezuela; that it would undermine that nation’s democratic institutions; and direct a campaign of repression that would result in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent student protesters – we would have been mocked as delusional.

If we would have predicted that repression would rise dramatically in Cuba under Raul Castro; that political arrests would at least triple; that opposition activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto and Wilmar Villar would be murdered; and democracy leaders Laura Pollan of The Ladies in White and Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement would die under mysterious circumstances – we would have been accused of exaggerating.

RTWT

Payá family launches new plebiscite initiative in Cuba

 

cubaPayá_&_Cepero_II_Aniversario_SMALL_02On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, has announced that the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign to demand a plebiscite on the island’s future, the Miami Herald reports:

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father’s Varela Project, would include “one single question: Do you want to participate in free and multi-party elections?”

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other measures. The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in 2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela Project remains alive, “it is not necessary to collect more signatures. More than double the number required already have been handed in, even though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

“But the Varela Project is a citizens’ effort. Our intention with this (new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights,” she added. “There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there’s a recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of association to carry out the change we want.”

HT: Babablu blog.

Payá’s death in Cuba still awaits investigation

cubaPayá_&_Cepero_II_Aniversario_SMALL_02Two years ago Tuesday, a blue rental car was wrecked off a deserted road in eastern Cuba. In the back seat was Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents, who had championed the idea of a democratic referendum on the nation’s future, the Washington Post reports:

He received threats by phone and other warnings, some violent. But he did not give up. On the day of the crash, Mr. Payá was traveling with a young associate, Harold Cepero, across the island to meet with supporters of the Christian Liberation Movement. In the front of the rental car was a visitor from Spain, Ángel Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of that country’s ruling party, and one from Sweden.

The car spun out of control after being rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates, according to Mr. Carromero. While he and the associate from Sweden survived, Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were killed. Mr. Carromero says he was then coerced to confess and subjected to a rigged trial in order to cover up what really happened. Mr. Carromero’s videotaped “confession,” broadcast on television, was forced upon him; he was told to read from cards written by the state security officers. He was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and later released to return to Spain to serve out his term.

Since then, there has been no serious, credible investigation of the deaths. Cuba has brushed aside all demands for an international probe that would reveal the truth. Mr. Payá held dual Cuban and Spanish citizenship, but Spain has been shamefully uninterested in getting to the bottom of the story.

“The truth matters — to show the Castro brothers that they cannot snuff out a voice of freedom with such absolute impunity,” the Post adds. “The values that Mr. Payá fought for in Cuba must not be forgotten. Other dissidents are still struggling, despite crackdowns, beatings, jailings and persecution, and they must not be forsaken. “

cuba carrameroA UN Watch meeting this week heard testimony from Ángel Carromero (left), the driver in the suspicious crash, and Cuban dissident and poet Regis Iglesias.

“The accident took place two years ago and the family hasn’t had any access to the autopsy,” said Carromero.

After the panelists gave their testimony, representatives from the Cuban and Venezuelan government responded by screaming wild accusations of corruption at them and UN Watch.

The Venezuelan delegate said, “We have the greatest amount of oil; you [the United States] have the greatest empire and you are trying to take our resources.” In response to Ms. Lopez’s condemnation of the inhumane treatment of her jailed nephew, the Venezuelan insisted that he was “protected by all constitutional and legal rights.” VIDEO

The Cuban representative screamed accusations at the panelists and UN Watch: “This is clearly a program of the United States to undermine Cuba, and they have given these speakers money to participate,” said the furious representative, who ended his speech by loudly leading a walk-out of the North Korean, Syrian and other allied delegates who showed up at the UN Watch event. VIDEO

Two years on: commemorating Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero

cubaPayá_&_Cepero_II_Aniversario_SMALL_02Memorial services will be held tomorrow on the 2nd anniversary of the murders of Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero, Babalu blog reports.

In May, Pope Francis received the family of deceased Cuban democracy leader Paya, during a private meeting at the papal residence. Among the issues discussed were the deaths of Paya and fellow democracy activist Cepero; the Castro regime’s repression of peaceful democracy activists; the “fraudulent change“ purportedly underway on the island; the Christian Liberation Movement’s proposed plebiscite; and the status of the Catholic Church in Cuba.  

Both activists died on July 22, 2012, when the car in which they were traveling was rammed off the road by the secret police. The regime targeted Payá because he “crossed a red line in challenging the government’s relations with the church, which had become a pillar of the government’s strategy of survival…. at a time when the regime, emboldened by the cardinal’s silence at the mass arrests during the pope’s visit to Cuba in March, was not about to tolerate criticism,” said the National Endowment for Democracy’s Carl Gershman.