Saturday, November 21, 2009
This post will remain at the top of the page through Friday, events allowing. To read newer posts, scroll down.
In "New Castro, Same Cuba," Human Rights Watch's recently released report on the human rights situation in Cuba more than three years after Fidel Castro turned sick and Raúl Castro was elevated to the top of the governing dictatorship, the authors four "illustrative cases" to highlight how baby brother has continued and refined the means of repression on the island.
Three of the political prisoners mentioned have been previous Political Prisoners of the Week on Uncommon Sense. The fourth name — "Jorge Barrera Alonso" — was a pseudonym, which Human Rights Watch used because the prisoner's wife was worried about possible retaliation against her husband for talking about his experiences. I think I have previously profiled this prisoner, using his real name, but out of respect for her wishes and the agreement Human Rights Watch struck, I have decided not to play detective.
Whoever he is, however, is deserving of recognition, because of his own experiences, and because of how his experiences illustrate Raúl-style repression. As the Human Rights Watch report makes clear, there are too many examples of how under Raúl Castro, too little has changed in Cuba, and the suffering continues.
To read what Human Rights Watch had to say about "Jorge Barrera Alonso," go below the fold.
Photo credit: The White House
Yesterday, three significant statements were made regarding the United States' policy towards Cuba. President Barack Obama, responding to dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, signaled to Congress and Havana his willingness to break the stalemate on Cuba policy. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) came out forcefully in favor of ending the 50 year old travel ban keeping Americans from traveling to Cuba. And Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi protected President Obama's health care flank by saying Cuba will not interfere with the President's legislative agenda.
It was a great day.
Dr. Ferrer's message regarding this years International Day of Human Rights activities, it's in Spanish, my rough translation is below the fold, and I invite corrections please:
“Celebración del Día Internacional de los Derechos Humanos”Continue reading From inside Cuba’s gulag: an invitation from Dr. Darsi Ferrer
Por Dr. Darsi Ferrer Ramírez, preso de conciencia.
La Habana, Cuba. 20 de noviembre de 2009.
La adopción de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos por la Organización de las Naciones Unidas (O.N.U.), el día 10 de diciembre de 1948, representó un hecho de transcendental importancia para la humanidad. El documento consignó el compromiso asumido por las naciones firmantes, en el reconocimiento y la protección de los derechos fundamentales e inherentes a todas las personas, sin distinción por motivos de género, edad, raza o color de la piel, opinión política, creencia religiosa, status socioeconómico u otros.
Activistas de la sociedad civil cubana conmemoran la magna fecha con una marcha pacífica, que ya es tradicional desde el 2006. La cita tienen lugar los 10 de diciembre a las 11:00 de la mañana, en el parque Villalón ubicado en Calzada entre D y E, en el barrio del Vedado, en La Habana. La actividad consiste en caminar en silencio, sin consignas ni proclamas, con el propósito de promover el respeto a las libertades y derechos de todos los seres humanos.
En las tres ocasiones que se han realizado las Marchas pacíficas la seguridad del estado ha reprimido esa actividad violentamente, mediante la utilización de turbas paramilitares y policías vestidos de civil, que han agredido con impunidad a los indefensos activistas pro-democracia. Tal actitud demuestra el menosprecio del gobierno por los compromisos contraídos por la nación cubana, en su condición de nación signataria de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos, además de miembro del Consejo de los Derechos Humanos de la ONU y firmante desde el 2007, pendiente de ratificación, de los Pactos de Derechos Humanos de las Naciones Unidas.
Aunque no podré asistir este año, al encontrarme preso de modo injusto por mis ideas políticas y la labor que desarrollo en defensa de los derechos civiles, invito nuevamente a Todos los cubanos, sin distinción, a que se sumen el próximo 10 de diciembre a la celebración del Día Internacional de los Derechos Humanos, participando en la Tradicional Marcha pacífica que ha de realizarse en el parque Villalón. Mi invitación se fundamenta en el principio de que los derechos humanos no son privilegios que otorgan los gobiernos, sino que se adquieren con el nacimiento y constituyen el cimiento de la dignidad de las personas, la función de los gobiernos debe ser la implementación de políticas que permitan el ejercicio de esos derechos.A los líderes de las organizaciones y demás miembros de la sociedad civil en Cuba, los llamo a superar las diferencias que puedan existir y a que juntos sean los protagonistas que garanticen la realización de la Marcha, para de modo simbólico exigir el respeto a las libertades y derechos elementales de todos los ciudadanos. Le pido a los cubanos del exilio que planifiquen acciones ese día en apoyo a la actividad del parque Villalón. Convoco a los Internautas a que contribuyan en la medida que le sea posible. Invito a los representantes del cuerpo diplomático y a los profesionales de la prensa extrajera acreditados en el país, a ser acto de presencia en el lugar de la actividad, para que puedan monitorear de modo directo lo que suceda en ese día.
November 23, 2009
Dissidents support an end to the travel banMiriam Alonso, a founder of the dissident group Ladies in White, issued a statement in Havana on Monday saying that she and her "husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, fully support the lifting of the travel ban on Americans to visit Cuba."
Both have been vocal critics of the Cuban government.
On Thursday, Alonso testified via teleconference at a House committee hearing on the travel ban. In effect, her written statement reaffirmed that testimony. Excerpts:
• "To a Cuban woman who is denied the right to opine in her country, who has suffered reprisals for not bending to pressure and faces the harassment of the authorities, taking part in that [hearing] was a great responsibility.
• "Those in the United States who oppose the visit of its citizens invoke the financial impact of tourism in the Cuban economy, for fear it may invigorate the totalitarian regime. But, without a doubt, many thousands of Americans visiting Cuba would benefit our society and therefore our people. In the first place, through the free flow of ideas, and also by pressuring the government to allow self-employment for the offer of products and services such as room rentals, because hotel accomodations would be swamped.
• "Of course the Americans would spend money. It would be collected by the Cuban government, which is so inefficient that it could only keep small amounts, not enough to cover its major needs. [...] The money spent by the Americans would return through the purchases made from American farmers and other traders to supply the hotels, restaurants and stores.
• "The Cuban authorities [...] have used the embargo to justify their arbitrariness, economic inefficiency, mismanagement and repression. They fear losing that pretext, just as they panic at the idea of losing the excuse to keep the Americans out.
• "[The system] has fallen into a deep economic, political and social crisis, with no solution other than profound changes. These can come from the power structure, aware of their inevitability, or from the people, through desperation and civic commitment. They could come in velvet or violence, with great repression. We struggle for an understanding among all Cubans [...] We are convinced that a lessened tension in the relations between Cuba and the United States would help our objectives."
The entire text, in Spanish, is in Cubanuestra.nu.
Posted by Renato Perez at 05:34 PM in Dissidents, human rights, Raul Castro, Travel, U.S.-Cuba relations
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Source: Cuban Colada
Friday, November 20, 2009
I read President Obama’s answers to Yoani Sanchez’ seven questions, and there’s not much new to chew over. As one might expect, he reiterates his own policy views, makes some graceful compliments about her winning the
award, and praises her work and notes its value. Columbia University
This was interesting, perhaps a hint that he will do more to encourage citizen contacts beyond unlimited travel for Cuban Americans:
“It is also my intent to facilitate greater contact with the Cuban people, especially among divided Cuban families, which I have done by removing
restrictions on family visits and remittances.” U.S.
The word “joys” was interesting here, not a word I think his predecessor would have used:
“This is why everything you are doing to project your voice is so important…for people outside of
to gain a better understanding of the life, struggles, joys, and dreams of Cubans on the island.” Cuba
Beyond that, President Obama is watching with interest to see if
provides Web access in post offices, and he won’t rule out a trip to Cuba . Cuba
All in all, good for him for responding.
But I think I’m with Ernesto at Penultimos Dias on this one: the news was the fact that he responded, not so much the responses themselves.
What is interesting is the idea that Yoani, as blogger and digital activist, may be eclipsing the dissident movement through her actions, as this EFE story contends. Her use of new media – for example, her recent YouTube video of herself sneaking into an official organization to debate Internet policy and another reading the riot act to an immigration service clerk who told her she didn’t have permission to travel – is more interesting, with all respect, than dissidents complaining that the Spanish foreign minister didn’t see them.
Some are making the same point and complaining about it. Take for example this post from Zoe Valdes, a Cuban author who lives in
. Valdes insinuates that Yoani may be a Cuban agent. She asks, “Who does she represent, what legitimacy does she have?” She complains about her “thirst for pragmatism.” And she says that she “erases the Cuban disidencia” with her seven questions for President Obama. Paris
It’s not clear to me that someone like Yoani has to represent anyone or get anyone’s stamp of approval to have “legitimacy.” And one blogger is not going to “erase” anybody. She writes, and you’re free to read or ignore her, believe her or disbelieve her, trust her or distrust her.
What Valdes seems to be saying that opposition to the Cuban government must have a single form, a single line of march, sort of like the Communist party as the vanguard of the people.
As one of her commenters wrote, “My God, so much paranoia!”