Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Prayer for all those who fight for Human Rights in Cuba

By Cuban Democratic Directorate
Members of multiple Cuban exile organizations attend a Mass and candle light vigil for the liberty of Cuba
Vigil held fo Cuban freedom fighters at Corpus Christi Catholic Church
Vigil held fo Cuban freedom fighters at Corpus Christi Catholic Church
More than 200 people attended a Catholic mass in support of the  “Non-Cooperation Campaign” and those who fight and have fought for Cuba’s liberty.

Father. Jose Luis Menendez celebrated the mass at Corpus Christi Church in Northwest Miami.   Former political prisoners and activists of Cuban exile organizations were present. Three symbols of the Cuban nation presided over the event: A Cuban flag that flew over the battle fields during the war of independence, a copy of the Constitution of 1901, and a book of donations for the independence struggle from the Tampa, FL exiled Cuban tobacco workers from the 19th century.

“We are two parts of the same heart, the one from this shore and the Cuba that lives on the island. We pray for all those in the enslaved island. Let us ask for all those who have fought during all our existence as a nation to obtain the light to shine in the hearts and minds of all its’ sons. Let us ask for all those who live in Cuba and are fighting so that the cause of liberty does not die, for all those who become aware that they can no longer be complicit with the regime,” said Father Menendez during the initial prayer.

At the end of the mass all participants along with the priest took part in a candle light vigil on the esplanade of the church. The candles were lit for Cuba’s liberty and Sylvia Iriondo, president of Mothers Against Repression, Angel De Fana, Director of “Plantados” organization of former Cuban political prisoners and Orlando Gutierrez, National Secretary of Cuban Democratic Directorate, said words of inspiration to the persons in attendance.

“The fundamental reason for this mass is to spiritually strengthen all Cubans for the fight for freedom, for the Non-cooperation campaign that is taking place inside of Cuba. It is a mass of endorsement to all those Cubans inside and outside of Cuba, or who find themselves in prison for Cuba’s liberty or are actively fighting in the streets for freedom. It is a way to start the new year spiritually strengthening and uniting Cubans from inside and outside of the island for liberty” said Orlando Gutierrez
 S:Cuban Democratic Directorate

LPP Archive...

Cyber-freedom prize for 2006 awarded to Guillermo Fariñas of Cuba

Published on 13 December 2006
Guillermo Fariñas Hernández, Cuba
He is fighting for Cubans right of access to a “free Internet”
Guillermo Fariñas, "El coco", head of the independent news agency Cubanacán Press, began a hunger strike in February 2006 to demand the right for all Cubans to have access to a “fee Internet”. The authorities hospitalised him and put him on a drip to try to end his campaign, which was widely covered in the international media.
After he had spent several months in intensive care suffering from kidney and heart problems, the authorities told Guillermo Fariñas he could have “limited” access to the Internet. He refused, explaining that he could not honourably exercise his profession as a journalist by looking only at news and information which had been filtered by the government.
“El coco” only ended his hunger strike on 31 August after a brush with death and the loss of 15 kilos. He is continuing his work at Cubanacán and has become one of the leading voices among Cuban opposition journalists. He also still keeps the foreign media up to date with human rights violations in his country and in particular passes on information about intimidation and harassment of independent reporters.
Cubanacán, founded in 2003, is the leading news agency of the new generation of Cuban journalists. None of its 17 reporters has the right to use the Internet or fax to send articles abroad. Their reports are mostly filed from public telephones. Since telecommunications charges are very high, the calls are mostly placed by collect.
Internet in Cuba, a network under tight surveillance
The Cuban government uses a variety of tools to ensure the Internet is not used to “counter-revolutionary” ends. First of all, private Internet connections are more or less banned. Cubans wishing to surf the Net or check their emails have to go to public places such as cybercafés, universities, youth computer clubs and so on, where it is easier to keep checks on what they are doing. Then, Cuban police have installed software at all cybercafés and big hotels which sends out an alert as soon as “subversive” key words are entered. The government also depends on self-censorship. In Cuba, one can be sentenced to 20 years in prison for posting a few “counter-revolutionary” articles on foreign websites and to five years simply for going online illegally. Few Internet-users dare to take such a risk to defy state censorship.
The other 2006 nominees in the “Cyber-dissident” category were:
Habib Saleh, Syria President Bashar al-Assad has made Syria into one of the worst ‘black holes’ in the Internet. He has set up systematic filtering of online opposition publications and sent his political police to mercilessly track down dissidents and independent journalists expressing themselves online. Writer and businessman Habib Saleh, 59, has paid the price of this systematic repression. On 29 May 2005, he was arrested at his office in Tartus, 130 kilometres north of Damascus. He was sentenced to three years in prison at the end of an unfair trial at which he was accused of “spreading lies” on the Internet.
Yang Zili, China
Computer technician Yang Zili was sentenced on 28 May 2003 to eight years in prison for “subversion”. His “crime” was to post articles on his website lib.126.com, "the garden of Yang Zili’s ideas", in which he wrote about his support for political liberalism, criticised the crackdown on the spiritual movement Falungong and condemned the economic woes of China’s peasants.
He was only 30 when he and his wife were arrested on 13 March 2001. “It was like the films about the cultural revolution”, his wife, Lu Kun later said. They ransacked my apartment and held and questioned me for three days in the cellars of a police station. It was only when I returned home, without my husband, that I began to cry.”
This is the fourth time that Reporters Without Borders has awarded a “cyber-dissident” prize. The previous three years’ winners were:

Dissident Cuban journalist falls ill after five days of hunger strike
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
HAVANA, Cuba (AFP) - A dissident Cuban journalist who went on a hunger strike after a political prisoner died in a protest fast last week needs to be hospitalised, his doctor told AFP yesterday.
Guillermo Farinas, who has not been eating or drinking for five days in the central city of Santa Clara, is suffering from symptoms of dehydration, physician Ismel Iglesias said by phone.
"He is now extremely weak, with headaches, abdominal pain and pain in his legs. He has dehydration symptoms and an iregular heartbeat," Iglesias said. "His condition is worsening, he needs hospital care and rehydration."
Farinas, 48, is a psychologist by training who became a journalist and has been jailed three times for opposing the Americas' only one-party Communist regime.
He decided to go on a full hunger strike when he learned of the death Tuesday of Orlando Zapata, 85 days into a hunger strike to protest prison conditions.
Meanwhile, four political prisoners were on a solidarity hunger strike Monday, Elizardo Sanchez, spokesman for the outlawed Cuban National Reconciliation and Human Rights Commission, said.
Hunger strikers Diosdado Gonzalez, 47; Eduardo Diaz, 58; Fidel Suarez, 49; and Nelson Molinet, 45, were on the fifth day of their protest, Sanchez added.
Zapata's death drew international outrage, with rights groups calling on Cuba to release all political prisoners.
Designated a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International, Zapata had been in prison since 2003.
Scores of dissidents across the country were briefly detained to prevent protests ahead of Zapata's funeral, Sanchez said.
President Raul Castro said in a statement that he "regrets" Zapata's death, but denied there was repression or torture in Cuba. Zapata's mother charged that her son had been tortured, and called his death "premeditated murder."
Cuban dissident groups say there are more than 200 political prisoners, of whom 65 are deemed prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. Cuba denies that there are any political prisoners and calls dissidents "mercenaries" in the pay of the United States and a conservative Cuban-American "mafia."

March 02, 2010

March 01, 2010

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Odds and ends

  • TelecomTV, a British web-based news service on the telecom and IT business, says Britain’s Cable and Wireless plans to run an undersea cable from Jamaica to Cuba to give Cuba a new connection to the Internet. Then, C&W hopes to buy out Telcom Italia’s share of Etecsa, the Cuban telecom monopoly provider of wireline and wireless telephony. The talk of a Cuba-Venezuela cable, last noted here (see fifth item) seems to remain just talk.
  • El Nuevo: Aroldis Chapman of the Cincinnati Reds looks forward to pitching in Miami against the Marlins, “in front of so many Cubans.” He also says his control and off-speed pitches are improved.
  • Tracey Eaton on the experience (and the difficulties) of reporting from Cuba. He discusses his own experience and comments on a Herald story on two recent books by reporters who worked there.
  • It’s the thought that counts: El Pais reports that Spain’s prime minister planned to give President Obama a gift of a photo of an African-American who went to Spain to fight on the republican side of the Spanish civil war. The volunteer brigadista traveled to Spain from the United States, but it turns out he was Cuban. His identity is still unknown.
  • In El Nuevo Herald, Paquito D’Rivera gives a welcome of sorts to “my old friend Bobby Carcasses,” the multi-instrumentalist and Cuban jazz pioneer who gave a concert in Miami last Friday night. El Nuevo has photos of the concert and the Herald’s Jordan Levin profiled him here.

Cuban president regrets jailed dissident's death

2/24/2010, 4:30 p.m. CT
The Associated Press

(AP) — HAVANA - Cuban President Raul Castro issued an unprecedented statement of regret Wednesday over the death of a jailed dissident after a lengthy hunger strike that has sparked condemnation in Washington and in European capitals.
Official media said in a statement released to the foreign press and posted on a government Web site that the Cuban leader blamed the United States for the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, but did not explain how. That post was later taken down. In a video of Castro's comments obtained by The Associated Press, he did not appear to directly blame Washington.
"We took him to Cuba's best hospitals, and he died. We very much regret it," Castro said during a joint appearance with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Castro added that thousands of Cubans had died in the half-century conflict with the United States-but he did not explicitly link Zapata Tamayo to the conflict. Castro reiterated a desire to hold talks with the United States.
"The day the United States decides to live in peace with us, all these problems will end," Castro said.
"In half a century in Cuba there have been no extrajudicial executions. There is torture here, but only at the base at Guantanamo, not where the revolution is in control," Castro added, referring to the U.S. military base in eastern Cuba used to jail terrorism suspects.
Cuban officials almost never comment on dissident activity, which they view as illegitimate and a creation of Washington. Castro weighing in personally was a first.
Zapata Tamayo, little known before his death, had been jailed since 2003 on charges including disrespecting authority. He died Tuesday at a hospital in the capital, becoming the first imprisoned opposition figure to die after a hunger strike in nearly four decades.
Several leading dissidents traveled from Havana to his hometown of Banes, 560 miles (900 kilometers) east of the capital, for a wake and funeral.
Well-known dissident Vladimiro Roca said plainclothes security officials watched Wednesday's wake but did not intervene.
Asked about Castro's statement, he said: "That is complete cynicism. They let Zapata Tamayo die."
Human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez said authorities in eastern Cuba detained dozens of activists, preventing some from attending funeral services-but that claim could not immediately be confirmed with police or the government.
In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the United States had urged Cuban officials to give Zapata Tamayo medical attention. She also offered condolences to his family.
"We are deeply distressed by his death during a hunger strike on behalf of his rights and to send a signal about the political prisoner situation and oppression in Cuba," she said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.
Earlier, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. diplomats who were in Havana last week for migration talks raised the case with their Cuban counterparts.
"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," Crowley said.
In Brussels, spokesman John Clancy said the European Union regrets the death and called on Cuba to free all political prisoners. Human rights on the island "remain a key priority for the EU," Clancy said.
Amnesty International called for an investigation into whether poor prison conditions played any part in the death.
Spain, whose socialist government has been seeking to improve European relations with Cuba since it took over the rotating EU presidency in January, said it was shocked.
"The Spanish government profoundly deplores the death of Orlando-the death of a human rights defender in Cuba," Deputy Prime Minister Manuel Chaves said. "There is a deficit of human rights in that country."
French Foreign Ministry spokesman Bernard Valero expressed dismay and said Paris had called on Cuba to release Zapato Tamayo. The British Embassy in Havana did not mention the case specifically, but said it was "worried about human rights abuses and due legal process in Cuba."
Official reaction was muted in Latin America, whose governments this week held a "unity summit" that included Raul Castro and that unanimously denounced the 48-year-old U.S. embargo of the island.
Cuba describes the dissidents as paid U.S. stooges and says Washington greatly exaggerates their numbers and influence.
In the statement, Castro said Zapata Tamayo's death "is a result of the relationship with the United States." It was not clear what he meant.
When the visiting U.S. diplomats held a reception for about 40 dissidents last week, Cuba put out an angry statement saying the meeting proved that Washington is out to overthrow the government.
On Wednesday, veteran dissidents were joined by a relatively new voice: the son of revolutionary hero Juan Almeida Bosque, who fought alongside Fidel Castro in the guerrilla uprising that brought down dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
Juan Juan Almeida Garcia posted an open letter on his daughter's Facebook page saying Raul Castro should be embarrassed by the death.
"Must we go to such extremes? ... I beg of you to resign. Get out of this country. You don't deserve respect," he wrote. The younger Almeida was briefly jailed in November after petitioning for permission to travel to the United States for medical care.
Sanchez, head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation, said Zapata Tamayo was arrested in 2003 and held for months without charge before being sentenced to three years for disrespecting police authority.
Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old builder, was subsequently sentenced to 25 years for activism behind bars, Sanchez said. He was one of a small number of Afro-Cubans in the island's tiny dissident community.
As of January, Sanchez's commission counted 201 political prisoners in Cuban jails. Cuba says it holds none.
Sanchez said Zapata Tamayo stopped accepting solid food Dec. 3, drinking only water and a few other liquids, some of which were forced on him by authorities. He was transferred to Kilo 8 Prison in Camaguey and placed in solitary confinement, where he continued to refuse food, Sanchez said.
Zapata Tamayo was taken earlier this month to Havana's Combinado del Este prison, where he received some treatment in a clinic, then was transferred to Hospital Hermanos Ameijeiras the day before his death.
Sanchez said the last Cuban dissident to die in prison was Pedro Luis Boitel, a poet who passed away after a 53-day hunger strike in 1972.
Associated Press writers Will Weissert and Andrea Rodriguez in Havana, Jorge Sainz in Madrid, Jamey Keaten in Paris, Robert Wielaard in Brussels and Desmond Butler in Washington contributed to this report.

Cuba TV report denies gov't let hunger striker die

  • 1 vote
HAVANA, Cuba – Cuba devoted nearly a third of its official newscast Monday night to denying that state doctors purposely let a jailed dissident die from a hunger strike. It claimed the case, which sparked an international outcry, began because the victim wanted television and other comforts in his prison cell. Orlando Zapata Tamayo died Feb. 23 after refusing food since December, the first Cuban victim of a hunger strike in 40 years. Imprisoned in 2003 for disrespecting authority, he was sentenced to 25 years for activism behind bars and was considered a "prisoner of conscience" by Amnesty International. A wide range of figures, from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to socialist Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero of Spain, decried the death. They called on Cuba to free all its political prisoners, which human rights groups say number around 200. On Monday, state-controlled television aired a report that stretched nearly 10 minutes during the half-hour news program, which is broadcast simultaneously on three of Cuba's five national TV channels. Doctors who treated Zapata Tamayo, a 42-year-old construction worker, said they tried to get him to eat. "We explained to him the consequences of his decision at every turn and how much he was endangering his life with this. But he kept it up," said Maria Ester Hernandez, identified as a doctor for Interior Ministry officials. There was also footage of his mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, thanking "the best doctors for trying to give Orlando life." It seemed to have been shot with a hidden camera as she spoke inside a doctor's office. The afternoon of her son's death, Tamayo did interviews with radio stations in Florida shouting that Cuba's government had let her son die because he dared oppose the Castro government. The TV report even included an interview with a nutritionist who explained the effects of a hunger strike on the body. Human rights groups say Zapata Tamayo was refusing food to draw attention to Cuba's human rights record and its treatment of political prisoners. The newscast contended he refused food because authorities wouldn't put a TV set, a stove and a phone in his cell. Zapata Tamayo was jailed in his native Banes — the same eastern town where Fidel Castro married his first wife — but was eventually transferred to Havana. The night before he died, he was taken to a hospital. President Raul Castro took the unprecedented step last week of expressing public regret about the death. He said Zapata Tamayo was treated by top doctors and denied he was tortured. State newspapers, meanwhile, have described Zapata Tamayo as a common criminal falsely elevated to martyr status. Also Monday, Fidel Castro released an opinion column that was read on the same newscast. He made no mention of Zapata Tamayo by name, but defended Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who some have criticized for visiting Cuba as part of a trip that began hours after Zapata Tamayo died. "Lula has know for many years that our country has never tortured anyone, never ordered the murder of an adversary, never lied to its people," Castro wrote. Cuba dismisses dissidents as paid agents of Washington, out to topple the government. Shortly before the newscast, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation — which the government does not recognize but largely allows to operate — released a statement saying 115 opposition activists and other Zapata Tamayo supporters were detained following his death and held long enough to miss his funeral in Banes. Most of those arrested hailed from eastern Cuba and were released after a short time, the commission said.

Cuban spy's ex-wife's lawsuit could halt Cuba flights, hinder Obama's efforts

More on this Story

All direct U.S. flights to Cuba may be halted if the ex-wife of a Cuban spy wins a lawsuit to garnish money that South Florida charter companies pay in fees to Cuba, lawyers in the case said Monday.
Ira Kurzban, attorney for the charterers, said he filed a motion Monday to dissolve the writs of garnish by Ana Margarita Martinez, and asked U.S. Judge Frederico Moreno for an emergency hearing.
The eight charter companies, all based in South Florida, have stopped making payments to Cuba, he added. "My clients are now in breach of contract, and Cuba can stop them landing any time."
Martinez's suit could deal a blow to the Obama administration's efforts to increase people-to-people contacts with Cuba, and force Cuban-Americans to go through third countries to visit the island.
An estimated 200 charter flights to Cuba leave monthly from Miami, New York, and Los Angeles carrying 20,000 passengers, industry experts said. The companies must pay Cuban agencies for landing rights, fuel, ground support, and other services.
Charter-company and Cuban officials met in Havana last week to study the legal situation, and Havana decided to withhold a reaction until it determines how the legal case is moving, said a travel-industry member who declined to comment further because of the sensitivity of the case.
To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.