A group of Congressmen have suggested that in its response to the detention of USAID contractor Alan Gross in
Separately, I have found that if you examine the USAID program’s legal foundations and
Mr. Gross’ problem is that the Administration, Congress, USAID, and his employer sent him to carry out a project in
Demanding his release is a fine idea, but that requires the State Department to make the demand face-to-face to Cuban officials. No one likes a situation where a USAID contractor is stuck in a communist legal system and our diplomats have to make a case for his release. We can assign blame to the Cuban government – fair enough, it arrested him – but the
I continue to believe that the best hope for Mr. Gross is that Cuban authorities come to the conclusion that they have made their point, and he can be released on a humanitarian basis. Let’s hope that happens.
But I am concerned that a public relations campaign executed last week with regard to his case may have worsened his predicament. I would say the campaign was done on Mr. Gross’ behalf, but it seems more a political defense of the USAID program than an effort to win his release. I hope I’m wrong. (See Reuters article, a fact sheet from a public relations firm, and this video from Mrs. Judy Gross.)
Some have speculated that
Maybe so. But for now, the more salient connection seems to be that the Cuban Five were convicted of charges including operating here as unregistered foreign agents.
Last week’s campaign made the case that Mr. Gross’ intentions and activities were good. That argument is likely to go nowhere in the Cuban government.
I’m as much in favor of free satellite Internet service as the next guy, but as a practical matter – regardless of one’s views of the Cuban government, Cuban law, or Mr. Gross’ activities – assertions that the
Why? Because – and let’s note that people on my side of this debate are not usually the ones who have to drag this little factoid out – Cuba is a one-party state, guided by Leninist principles and defended by the closest thing to the Stasi that has ever existed in this hemisphere.
Those assertions about good
What is Mr. Gross’ predicament?
Read the post below, and connect the dots yourself.
Official website blames media and the right for the starvation death of jailed dissidentCubadebate, a government-run website, has posted its first commentary on the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Written by a blogger named Enrique Ubieta Gómez, it is titled "Zapata: A useful corpse?" Here are excerpts.
• "A man surrenders his life for an ideal that prioritizes the happiness of others, not one that prioritizes his own. So, the lamentable death of Orlando Zapata – a common prisoner with a long criminal record not at all linked to politics – deeply rejoices the 'grieving' hypocrites. Transformed into a 'political activist' after many trips to prison, Zapata was the perfect candidate for self-execution.
"He was a 'dispensable' man for the petty little groups and easy to convince to persist in an absurd hunger strike with impossible demands (his own kitchen and telephone in his cell) that none of the real ringleaders was brave enough to maintain.
• "Zapata's corpse is now exhibited with cynicism as a collective trophy. Like vultures, the media – the local mercenaries and the international right – circled the moribund man. His death is a feast. The spectacle is revolting, because the writers don't lament the death of a human being [...] but raise it high, almost gleefully, and use it with premeditated political objectives.
"Zapata's case reminds me of Pánfilo [...] a man in the full process of alcoholic detoxification who was invited to drink so he could say before the cameras what [the media] wanted to hear. I wonder if that isn't an accusation against those who now appropriate [Zapata's] 'cause.' They are right when they say it was a murder, but the media hide the true assassin: the Cuban petty groups and their transnational mentors. Zapata was murdered by the counter-revolution."
For the entire article, in Spanish, click here. For Ubieta's blog site, click here.
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.
Lula meets with the Castro brothers
Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and his Cuban host, Raúl Castro, on Wednesday toured the port of Mariel and then visited Fidel Castro for one hour at his home in Havana.
Mariel, about 30 miles west of Havana, will be remodeled with Brazilian assistance and funds, Radio Habana reported. The Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht will invest US$450 million in the creation of a container terminal. Construction is expected to start in the next couple of months.
Lula arrived in Havana Tuesday night, after attending the Rio Group summit in Cancún, Mexico. On Thursday, he will travel to Haiti.
[UPDATE: The Washington Post quotes Lula as saying that Fidel Castro is looking "exceptionally well." For more of the Brazilian president's impressions, click here.]
–Renato Pérez Pizarro.
S: Cuban Colada
Wednesday, February 24, 2010
The statement is at odds with several other news reports indicating that the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo was only the second death of a political prisoner in Cuba due to a hunger strike. The first recognized as the death of Pedro Luis Boitel, dissident who died in Castillo del Principe prison in 1972. Even Elizardo Sanchez, dissident inside Cuba who keeps records of all political prisoners, says that Zapata Tamayo is only the second death of this type.
So I reviewed some of the files from the Cuba Archive. And I found poor or conflicting data.
- Miguel Lopez Santos' cause of death is recorded as "hunger strike" in the Cuba Archive database. The date of death is recorded as April 2001. The only source comes from a June 2001 article by the Center for a Free Cuba. Miguel Lopez Santos is also the name of a Cuban dissident that went on a hunger strike in April 2001 [source: U.S. 2001 report], but he didn't die. He was soon released from prison, but arrested again in May 2001 for "social dangerousness" [source: Directorio Democratico Cubano, PDF]. The name Miguel Lopez Santos continues to appear in recent reports as an active dissident inside Cuba.
- Nicolas Gonzalez Regueiro's cause of death is also recorded as "hunger strike" by the Cuba Archive database. The date of death was September 16, 1992. There are more sources in this case, but they conflict. One important conflict of data comes from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights which reported that Gonzalez Regueiro "died by hanging on September 16, 1992" [source: IACHR, 1992-93 report].
- And, the case of Santiago de Jesus Roche Valle, recorded as death due to "hunger strike" in 1985, also contains several conflicting sources in the Cuba Archive database.
"Cuba Archive provides access to the information as a service to the users and does not take responsibility for such content. It cannot guarantee that any or all details contained in any case record or any of its other reports are true, accurate, or reliable... It is expected that users use caution and common sense and exercise proper judgment when using the material reported by Cuba Archive. Users acknowledge that any reliance on material posted via this website will be at their own risk."
Readers should always be cautious with reports about Cuban dissidents and prisoners. Confirmation of these sources neutralizes attempts to exaggerate and play politics with the victim.
Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This is not only outrageous but maddeningly infuriating.
Reina Luisa Tamayo speaks about the death of her son, political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo:
Video taken and posted by Yoani Sanchez.
UPDATE (1:45PM): Marc translated and posted an English transcript of the above video, right here.
More on Tamayo here.
Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a valiant defender of the liberty of the Cuban people, died today, murdered by the Castro regime which refused to guarantee respect for his basic rights. An Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, Zapata Tamayo engaged in a hunger strike of over 80 days to demand such a guarantee and to protest against terrible mistreatment he suffered in the Communist regime’s prisons, including brutal beatings. Zapata Tamayo, who will be remembered as a giant of the Cuban resistance, had been unjustly imprisoned since March 20, 2003.
“The abuses committed against Orlando Zapata Tamayo prove that torture and terror are inflicted upon the Cuban people are official policy under the Castro regime. His death is evidence of the practice of state terrorism,” stated Janisset Rivero, Adjunct National Secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.
In October, 2009, Zapata Tamayo was brutally beaten by military personnel at Holguin provincial prison, causing an internal hematoma in his head so severe that Zapata Tamayo had to undergo surgery. He began his hunger strike on December 3, 2009, at Kilo 8 prison in Camagüey, classified in Cuba as employing a “maximum severity” prison regime. For 18 days, Major Filiberto Hernández Luis, the prison’s director, denied Zapata Tamayo drinking water, the only thing he was ingesting during the strike. The effect of this act of torture was to induce kidney failure. In mid-January, he was transferred to Amalia Simoni Hospital in the city of Camagüey, where he was left to languish nearly completely nude under intense air conditioning, causing him to contract pneumonia. Despite his critical health condition, the regime transferred him to the hospital at Combinado del Este prison, which did not have the equipment and conditions necessary to treat him.
The Cuban Democratic Directorate also underlines that this crime joins a long list of atrocities committed by the Castro brothers which include thousands of executions by firing squad and countless cases of unjust imprisonment of Cuban citizens.
Additionally, Cuban prisoners of conscience Ariel Sigler Amaya and Normando Hernández González are also unjustly imprisoned and in terrible health. Their cases require prompt support and solidarity from Cubans around the world and the international community.
“They finally murdered Orlando Zapata Tamayo. They finally finished him. My son’s death has been a premeditated murder. I thank all of those brothers who struggled not to allow my son to die. There has been another Pedro Luis Boitel in Cuba,” stated Reina Tamayo Danger to the Cuban Democratic Directorate. Boitel was a Cuban student leader who was unjustly imprisoned by the Castro regime and died after a prolonged hunger strike in 1972.
The Cuban Democratic Directorate condemns this horrendous crime. We raise our voice to call for the condemnation of the Raúl Castro regime and those directly responsible for the death of this human rights defender for committing this crime against humanity.
Zapata Tamayo’s death will not be in vain. It will illuminate the path of Cuba’s civic resistance until the Cuban people achieve their freedom.
Update: Adding insult to injury, here's this administration's State Department's bland, timid and weak response, in its entirety:
On Tuesday, February 23, 2010, prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died following an eleven-week hunger strike. We are deeply saddened to learn of his death, and the U.S. Government extends its heartfelt sympathies to his family, friends, and supporters. Zapata was arrested in 2003 on charges of “contempt for authority.” While in Havana last week, the U.S. delegation for Migration Talks raised Zapata’s incarceration and poor health with Cuban officials and urged them to provide all necessary medical care.
Mr. Orlando Zapata Tamayo’s death highlights the injustice of Cuba's holding more than 200 political prisoners who should now be released without delay.
Pathetic. It's almost an apology.
Maria Werlau, of The Cuba Archive shows the State Department what a real response to the murder of a prisoner of conscience should be:
Political prisoner’s death highlights barbaric conditions and an alarming death toll in Cuba’s prisons
February 23, 2010, Summit, New Jersey. Orlando Zapata Tamayo died today in a Havana at age 42 after a hunger strike of over 80 days. He had chosen this extreme method of protest to demand respect for his personal safety after enduring numerous beatings and tortures at the hands of Cuban prison authorities. He sought to be recognized as a prisoner of conscience, requesting similar conditions as those under which Fidel Castro had been held for a year and a half during the Batista regime.
Zapata was a member of several opposition groups calling for democracy in Cuba by peaceful means. He had been incarcerated for four months from December 2002 to March 2003, accused by Cuba’s political police of "disrespect." Just thirteen days later, he was again apprehended while participating in a fast with other former political prisoners in what became known as the Black Spring clampdown against 75 dissidents around the country. In May of 2004 he was sentenced to 36 years of prison for contempt, public disorder, and disobedience. Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience. Last December 9th, Zapata went on hunger strike to demand proper treatment. Prison authorities refused him water for 18 days, leading to kidney failure. He was then held naked over a powerful air conditioner and developed pneumonia. Earlier today and already in critical condition, he was admitted to Hermanos Ameijeiras hospital in Havana and began receiving fluids intravenously. He died hours later. The Cuban government never responded to his demands.
Cuba Archive has documented eleven other cases of death by hunger strike in protest of prison conditions under the Castro regime: Roberto López Chávez, 12/11/1966, Luis Álvarez Ríos, 8/9/1967, Carmelo Cuadra Hernández, 7/21/1969, Pedro Luis Boitel, 5/25/1972, Olegario Charlot Spileta, 1/15/1973, Enrique García Cuevas, 5/23/1973, Reinaldo Cordero Izquierdo, 5/21/1975, José Barrios Pérez, 9/22/1977, Santiago de Jesús Roche Valle, 9/8/1985, Nicolás González Regueiro, 9/16/1992, and Miguel López Santos, 4/1/2001. From 2005 to today, 97 documented deaths of prisoners in Cuba have resulted from extrajudicial killings by guards, suicide or alleged suicides, and lack of medical care. This information is generally obtained from political prisoners held in the same facilities, so only a fraction of prisons are reported on and many more deaths are feared. Users may register at no cost at www.CubaArchive.org/database to access Cuba Archive’s electronic database of documented cases of death and disappearances resulting from the Cuban Revolution. For all documented deaths from hunger strike, enter the names above into the database or conduct an Advanced Search by selecting “hunger strike” in Cause of Death criteria
Barbaric prison conditions lead to systematic malnourishment, severely deteriorated health, acts of self-aggression and extreme suffering of prisoners and their loved ones. Over 200 political prisoners are held with tens of thousands incarcerated for “economic crimes” after resorting to the black market for basic sustenance that failed central planning cannot provide. The Red Cross and other international human rights’ monitoring groups are not allowed to inspect Cuba’s prisons.
Cuba Archive calls on all governments, institutions, and people of goodwill to hold the Cuban regime accountable for its crimes and to help the Cuban people attain their intrinsic right to live safely and in freedom. At minimum, inspection of Cuban prisons should be undertaken by the Red Cross, United Nations representatives and reputable members of the international human rights’ community without prior notice so the Cuban regime may not fake actual conditions.