Cubans give thumbs-down to regime, dissidents attacked at summit

cuba ladies in whiteAbout 100 supporters of Cuba’s government aggressively heckled dissidents from the communist-run island attending a civil society forum Wednesday at the start of the Summit of the Americas in Panama, AP reports.

A group of Cuban dissidents, including Leticia Herrería, of the Ladies in White (left) and Orlando Gutiérrez, with the Cuban Democracy and Resistance Directorate, were reportedly assaulted Wednesday as they tried to lay flowers at the bust of Cuban independence hero José Martí close to the Cuban embassy, The Miami Herald adds.

Fifty-eight percent of Cubans give negative ratings to the ruling Communist Party, and 53 percent say they are dissatisfied with their political system, with half of this group saying it does not offer enough freedoms, according to a new survey of Cuban citizens, The Washington Post reports:

But they are doubtful that the diplomatic detente [with the U.S.] will bring political reforms to their communist country….The poll of residents on the island shows a people unhappy with the political system, eager to end the U.S. embargo and disenchanted with their state-run economy. More than half of Cubans say they would like to leave the country for good if they had the chance.

CUBA EXPRESSION“Inevitably, the economic changes will open up political debate and I think there will be political relaxation and opening,” said Geoff Thale, program director at the Washington Office on Latin America. But he added, “No one expects a multi-party electoral system in the next three years.”

With Cuba’s restricted news media and limited Internet and phone access, getting an accurate sense of public opinion in the country can be difficult, The Post adds:

Public surveys are very rare; opinion research is strictly controlled by the Cuban government. … On the island, Cubans have an aversion to discussing politics: three-quarters of those surveyed in the Univision poll say they feel they need to be careful about expressing themselves. While some believe the Cuban government privately conducts focus groups and surveys, there are not regular public polls.

Cubans report broad problems with the economic and political systems. Nearly 8 in 10 are dissatisfied with the economic system, with one-third receiving money sent from family or friends abroad. … While over 6 in 10 expect renewed U.S. relations to change the economic system, more than half expect the political system to remain the same.

“Cuba is a closed and closely monitored society,” said Tom Garrett, vice president of the International Republican Institute, an arm of the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy —that has conducted its own polls in Cuba. “It’s one of the toughest places we’ve worked.”

Repression continues

“The Cuban government routinely and arbitrarily detains and harasses citizens who speak out for human rights or who seek to organize political activities or protests,” says Brookings analyst Ted Piccone. “In addition to the growing number of short-term detentions of human rights activists, journalists and artists, Cuban authorities and party watchdogs engage in beatings, public acts of ‘repudiation,’ termination of employment and benefits, and forced exile,” he tells World Politics Review.

“While outspoken dissidents, particularly those who receive support from the U.S., are regularly repressed, there are a range of civil society actors, artists and bloggers who organize, question and criticize the Cuban government through magazines, town halls and online debates,” he adds.

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China’s ‘power and paranoia’ evident in feminists’ arrests

china feminists2Hillary Clinton’s message of support for five women detained in China after campaigning against sexual harassment and domestic violence has buoyed the beleaguered movement, a friend of those imprisoned told NBC News Thursday.

“As one of our members said, ‘[Clinton] should say something or she should stop calling herself a feminist’,” the fellow campaigner said on condition of anonymity. “I feel a strong power now inspiring us to move on, her words are really important for us.”

On Monday, the likely 2016 U.S. presidential candidate called the detentions “inexcusable” in a tweet.

“Many people find it mind-boggling that the government of the second-largest economy and the world’s largest standing army is afraid of a group of women trying to draw attention to sexual harassment,” Sophie Richardson, the China director at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times. “The combination of power and paranoia on display is very telling.”

Chinese police are broadening their investigation into five detained female activists to focus on their campaigns against domestic violence and for more public toilets for women, The Guardian adds:

The women were taken into custody just before International Women’s Day on 8 March, and later detained on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a charge that carries a prison term of up to five years, their lawyers said on Wednesday.

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In the Shadows of Democracy: LGBTIQ Rights in Uganda

PEPE JULIAN ONZIEMAIn a human rights situation that has captured global attention, a majority of African countries have anti-homosexuality laws in place, some of which go so far as to punish offenders with life imprisonment or the death penalty. The Ugandan government, in particular, has faced widespread criticism for its passage in 2009 of an anti-homosexuality bill and the violence against sexual minorities that ensued. Yet the question of African legal discrimination against LGBTIQ citizens also carries an international component: there is no verifiable record of African laws against homosexuality predating colonization.

Yet the values promoted by these colonial laws were internalized over the years as inherently African and their source was forgotten.  In a cruel twist of history, current leaders across the continent now view promotion of LGBTIQ rights as a tool of neo-colonialism.

The International Forum for Democratic Studies
at the National Endowment for Democracy

cordially invites you to a presentation entitled

“In the Shadows of Democracy:

LGBTIQ Rights in Uganda”


Pepe Julian Onziema (above, left)

Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellow

moderated by

Wade McMullen

RFK Human Rights

with introductory remarks by

Zerxes Spencer

International Forum for Democratic Studies

Tuesday, April 28, 2015
3:00 p.m.–4:30 p.m.
1025 F Street, N.W., Suite 800, Washington, D.C. 20004
Telephone: 202-378-9675

RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation by Monday, April 27

Livestream of the event will be available here.

Twitter: Follow @ThinkDemocracy and use #NEDEvents to join the conversationIn his presentation, Pepe Julian Onziema will analyze the socio-economic changes in Africa, and Uganda in particular, that have accompanied the rise of homophobia and transphobia. He will provide recommendations for a locally rooted movement to protect LGBTIQ citizens and empower them to claim full citizenship. His presentation will be followed by comments by Wade McMullen.

Pepe Julian Onziema is program director of Sexual Minorities Uganda (SMUG), an advocacy network based in Kampala that works to support lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) rights organizations across Uganda. Wade McMullen is the staff attorney for Partners for Human Rights at RFK Human Rights.

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Russia’s information warfare – Kremlin’s hall of mirrors



Late last year, I came across a Russian manual called Information-Psychological War Operations: A Short Encyclopedia and Reference Guide, notes Peter Pomerantsev, the author of Nothing Is True and Everything Is Possible: the Surreal Heart of the New Russia, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week.

The book is designed for “students, political technologists, state security services and civil servants” – a kind of user’s manual for junior information warriors, he writes for The Guardian:

The 495-page encyclopedia contained an introduction to information-psychological war, a glossary of key terms and detailed flowcharts describing the methods and strategies of defensive and offensive operations, including “operational deception” (maskirovka), “programmatical-mathematical influence”, “disinformation”, “imitation”, and “TV and radio broadcasting”. In “normal war” the encyclopedia explains, “victory is a case of yes or no; in information war it can be partial. Several rivals can fight over certain themes within a person’s consciousness.”

I had always imagined the phrase “information war” to refer to some sort of geopolitical debate, with Russian propagandists on one side and western propagandists on the other, both trying to convince everyone in the middle that their side was right. But the encyclopedia suggested something more expansive: information war was less about methods of persuasion and more about “influencing social relations” and “control over the sources of strategic reserves”. Invisible weapons acting like radiation to override biological responses and seize strategic reserves? The text seemed more like garbled science fiction than a guide for students and civil servants.

russia info warfareThe mindset that the Kremlin’s information warfare seems intended to encourage is well-suited to European citizens at this particular moment, Pomerantsev adds:

In a recent paper called “The Conspiratorial Mindset in an Age of Transition”, which looked at the proliferation of conspiracy theories in France, Hungary and Slovakia, a team of researchers from European thinktanks concluded that the “current period of transition in Europe has resulted in increased uncertainty about collective identities and a perceived loss of control. These are in turn the ideal conditions for the proliferation of conspiracy.” Conspiratorial inclinations are especially rife among supporters of rightwing nationalist and populist parties, such as the Front National in France or Jobbik in Hungary – which support, and are supported by, Moscow…. Some 20% of the members of the European parliament now belong to parties – largely on the far right – sympathetic to Moscow.

The significance of these parties has grown in tandem with the decline of trust in national governments. At moments of financial and geopolitical uncertainty, people turn to outlandish theories to explain crises. Was this the “invisible radiation” that the Russian information-psychological war encyclopedia had referred to? Once the idea of rational discourse has been undermined, spectacle is all that remains. The side that tells better stories, and does so more aggressively – unencumbered by scrupulousness about their verifiability – will edge out someone trying to methodically “prove” a fact.


Russia’s fast-moving information war represents a new kind of challenge for Europe and the United States. It is a conflict fought with individual bytes of information instead of bullets. The western, democratic societies which are the targets of Russia’s information war are woefully unprepared to defend against it. As NATO Commander General Philip Breedlove has said, it is “the most amazing information warfare blitzkrieg we have ever seen in the history of information warfare.” Worse yet, Russia is winning the fight. How is Russia using this new style of warfare against the West; who are the targets; and what can Europe and the United States do to defeat it? 

Winning Without Bullets:

Russia’s Information Warfare

A Roundtable Discussion with

Peter Pomerantsev

Senior Fellow

The Legatum Institute

 Marcin Zaborowski


Polish Institute of International Affairs

Thursday, April 16, 2015 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.   Moderated by:   Wess Mitchell

CEPA President   Location:   Center for European Policy Analysis 1225 19th Street NW, Suite 450 Washington, DC 20036   Please RSVP by Tuesday, April 14th to Lina Karklina at or 202.601.4148

Please join CEPA for a timely discussion with Peter Pomerantsev, Senior Fellow of The Legatum Institute and Marcin Zaborowski, Director of Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) for a compelling look at the present and future prospects for information war in Europe.

Center for European Policy Analysis

1225 19th Street NW, Suite 450

Washington, DC 20036

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Is authoritarianism staging a comeback?

authoritarians xi-jinping-vladimir-putinThe past few years have marked the beginning of a tumultuous period for global governance. Across the world, we have seen threats to international order and a disruption of longstanding political norms and values as authoritarians get smarter and persist undeterred. With authoritarianism on the rise in many of the world’s most strategically important regions, new questions emerge regarding the diffusion of power, the rise of sometimes violent nonstate actors, and the future role of the nation-state. Developing an appropriate strategy for the advancement of human rights and the support of nonviolent civil resistance movements is thus proving to be one of the most challenging policy dilemmas for the United States and other democracies.

On April 21, the Atlantic Council will be hosting a public discussion of these challenges in recognition of the release of its forthcoming publication, Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback? This discussion will feature multiple leading experts on nonviolent civil resistance and authoritarian states, and will explore the range of issues and case-studies examined within this book of essays.

Atlantic Council CEO and President Mr. Frederick Kempe will begin by moderating a discussion on countering authoritarianism between Dr. Peter Ackerman, Dr. Paula Dobriansky, and Mr. Damon Wilson. This will be followed by a discussion of the issues raised in the book itself, featuring Adm. Dennis Blair (USN, Ret.), Dr. George A. Lopez, and Dr. Regine Spector, moderated by Dr. Mathew Burrows and Dr. Maria J. Stephen.

Please join the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, April 21 from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. for what promises to be an enriching discussion on this critical issue. The reception will be begin around 6:30 p.m. 

Is Authoritarianism Staging a Comeback?

A discusssion with:
Peter Ackerman
Founding Chair
International Center on Nonviolent Conflict

Paula Dobriansky
Senior Fellow The Future of Diplomacy Project, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Harvard University

Damon Wilson
Executive Vice President
Atlantic Council

Moderated by:
Mr. Frederick Kempe
President and CEO
Atlantic Council

A discussion with:
Dennis Blair
Chairman of the Board
Sasakawa Peace Foundation

George A. Lopez
Vice President, Academy for International Conflict Management and Peacebuilding
United States Institute of Peace

Regine Spector
Assistant Professor of Political Science
University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Moderated by:
Matthew Burrows 
Director, Strategic Foresight Initiative, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security
Atlantic Council

Maria J. Stephen
Senior Policy Fellow United States Institute of Peace Nonresident Senior Fellow, Strategic Foresight Initiative, Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security
Atlantic Council



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