Saturday, May 22, 2010


Daniel Pearl's Legacy

From the Editorial Board of Jacksonville's Florida-Times Union:

Freedom: Daniel Pearl's Legacy
It's tough to have much freedom of the press when the government monitors Internet use, controls content, restricts information, blocks access to sites, encourages self-censorship and punishes those who dare to express themselves.

That's the situation in China.

It's tough to have much freedom when the government denies peaceful assemblies of more than three persons, including those for private religious services in homes.

That's the situation in Cuba.


The U.S. State Department has been compiling an annual report on human rights for 34 years. It's an effort to keep the nation sensitive and engaged on the basic value of all human lives.

China and Cuba are two of the worst offenders.

This Human Rights Report was beefed up this week when President Barack Obama signed the Daniel Pearl Freedom of the Press Act into law. The bill will record how freedom of the press is handled in countries as part of the annual human rights report.

Pearl was The Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and killed in 2002 while reporting on alleged links between the "shoe bomber" Richard Reid and al-Qaida.

Pearl's family has continued the good fight for journalistic rights.

Journalists enter war zones with nothing but their reporting equipment. All too often in recent years, they are targets of harassment and even attacks.

"All around the world there are enormously courageous journalists and bloggers who, at great risk to themselves, are trying to shine a light on the critical issues that the people of their country face who are are the front-lines against tyranny and oppression," Obama said in a prepared statement on the White House website.

Citizens of the United States, especially those in Florida, are fortunate to have a presumption of freedom. When mistakes are made, public opinion generally favors openness. Outrages across the globe are numerous.

Praise to Congress, the president and the Pearl family for beefing up this nation's commitment to the eternal human right to be free.

Zapata Lives in D.C.

As Cuban Independence Day came to a close tonight, the image of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died pursuant to an 85-day hunger strike, was projected for 30 minutes on to the Castro regime's diplomatic mission ("Interests Section") in Washington, D.C.

Thanks to the creative genius of Geandy Pavon.

In Cuba, Baseball Scout Was A State Threat

May 22, 2010
For spiriting players out of Cuba into the major leagues, Juan Ignacio Hernandez Nodar spent 13 years in a Cuban prison. It wasn't until last November that he was set free. Host Scott Simon talks to Hernández, who endured solitary confinement and death threats and even tried to take his own life.

Cuba's world in eclipse

A briefing by English PEN paints a bleak picture, as writers continue to be imprisoned for opposing the government
This week saw the publication of Freedom of Expression in Cuba, a briefing paper for journalists, from the Writers in Prison Committee of English PEN. The launch of the document was a lively affair, with a few members of the audience denouncing PEN for giving succour to rightwing critics of the Cuban government, mostly based in Miami. One man suggested to Carole Seymour-Jones, deputy president of English PEN and chair of the Writers in Prison Committee, that she tear up the document and start all over again.

This is wrong-headed and unfair. PEN certainly paints a bleak picture: "Cuba imprisons far more writers than the rest of Latin America combined. The most recent case list of writers in prison, published by Pen's international secretariat in December 2009, lists 26 writers imprisoned by the Cuba government. Meanwhile, there are only four other writers in prison throughout the rest of Latin America."

But the briefing paper does not provide a one-sided condemnation. It points out that the United States embargo has stymied the development of human rights in Cuba. And in a fascinating presentation at the launch event, Dr Par Kumaraswami, lecturer in Latin American cultural studies at the University of Manchester, gave a nuanced description of Cuban cultural life, including an account of the massively successful International Book Fair. Indeed both Dr Kumaraswami and another guest speaker - Professor Elizabeth Dore, professor of Latin American Studies at the University of Southampton – called for journalists to tread lightly when highlighting human rights abuses on the island, for fear of strengthening the Castro regime's argument that the sovereignty of the island is under siege.

How light must that tread be? As PEN points out, there are more writers in prison in Cuba than in any other country in the world, except for China and Iran. You can't pick and choose which authoritarian regime should be condemned or which marginalised and imprisoned writers ought to be supported.

No doubt foreign travel writers will continue to visit Cuba, and will produce reams of blithe copy about Buena Vista Social Club, the Tropicana, and unspoilt beaches. But they should do so in the knowledge that beyond the sun, sea and salsa is a world in eclipse, where people are imprisoned and assaulted for the simple act of opposing their own government.

May 21, 2010

Summary of comments by Cardinal Ortega

Excerpts from the Havana Archdiocese's summary of press conference Wednesday by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino (See previous blog items.)• The (pic3) Cardinal said that this meeting should not be seen through the optics of compromise but of conversations that had a magnificent beginning and must continue, adding that they dealt with issues of national character, such as the Ladies in White and the political prisoners or prisoners of conscience (or counter-revolutionaries, as they called by the Cuban government), seen in their totality, not only the sick ones.
In this regard, His Eminence said that this is not a finished effort that might lead to another announcement; rather, that "we're dealing with the issue." He added that no conclusions can be predicted about specific dates or actions, although he stressed that "the issue is being treated seriously, I can say that much."
• Historically, [...] the Catholic Church in Cuba assumed an attitude of distancing, due to clashes and historical difficulties that everybody knows, but on this occasion the meeting held yesterday has as its primary value the [government's] support for the Church's efforts as a mediator, and, at the same time, its recognition of the Church's role as an interlocutor, which overcomes the old grievances and leads to new paths.
• The conversation held [Wednesday] is not at all framed in a Church-state relationship that might be seen as "a strategic alliance," because this phrase is in a military or political style. The Church must act in society on the basis of the religious freedom guaranteed by the existing Constitution, but never under any type of alliance.
Therein lies the importance of this meeting, which overcomes old concepts and enters into the  proper nature of the Church and its mission in society.
• [Priests] have twice visited Guillermo Fariñas [...] not to ask him to abandon his hunger strike. Instead, in a humane and religious manner, they have asked him to place a bit more trust on the Church's efforts, in the sense that some of the things he's asking for perhaps can be achieved, while, acknowledging that he holds a very respectable posture in tune with his conscience, [his attitude] could be made more flexible thanks to these dialogues, given that a human life is at stake.
• His Eminence reiterated the different and novel nature of the dialogue held with the Cuban authorities in the most positive sense of the phrase, because it opens a new stage, particularly if we consider that the encounter held with President Raúl Castro was not to dialogue about the Church's problems but to dialogue about Cuba, about the present moment and about the future "and that's how we spent more than four hours," he said.
• The conversation held yesterday thus fits the framework of the accustomed position of the Catholic Church as a conciliator and mediator in every era and country, cognizant that, as Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino recently recalled, quoting Pope Paul VI: "Dialogue is the new name of peace."
For the full text, in Spanish, of the Archdiocese's summary, click here. For the transcript, in Spanish, of the entire press conference, click here.
Posted by Renato Perez at 11:34 AM in Raul Castro, Religion
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Granma avoids mention of prisoners or dissidents in report on Castro-Ortega talks

The Communist Party daily Granma on Friday reported on the press conference held by Cardinal Jaime Ortega y Alamino but made no mention of the subjects discussed during Ortega's meeting Wednesday with Raúl Castro.
(For background, read our previous blog items "Cardinal: Our meeting with Castro..." and "Castro meets with top Catholic prelates..." For The Miami Herald's coverage, click here.)
According to Granma, Ortega described the gathering as "different and novel, in a very positive sense" and "a dialogue about Cuba, our realities, the present and the future."
"These conversations had a magnificent beginning yesterday and must continue in the future," the newspaper quotes Ortega as saying.
(seal) Granma made no reference or allusion to the subject of political prisoners or dissidents, which Ortega and his fellow archbishop from Santiago reported discussing with the Cuban president.
Instead, the paper published in full a press release from the Havana Archdiocese announcing the visit to Cuba next month of Msgr. Dominique Mamberti, the Vatican's Secretary for Relations with States of the Holy See.
However, the Archdiocese's announcement includes a paragraph saying that Mamberti's visit "is not related to the efforts made by the Church in Cuba in recent weeks with the nation's authorities in favor of the prisoners and the Ladies in White."
Other Cuban news outlets reported on the Ortega press conference only in terms of the Mamberti announcement.
The Archdiocese's website contains a summary of the cardinal's statements. For a transcript, in Spanish, of the entire press conference, click here..
–Renato Pérez Pizarro. Posted by Renato Perez at 10:44 AM in Raul Castro, Religion
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S:Cuban Colada

Fariñas would strike if the Cuban government released first 10 prisoners

May 22 2010, 10:57 a.m. ET LA HABANA, 22 May 2010 (AFP) -
Cuban dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who turns 87 Saturday days of hunger strike, said he was willing to leave their protest if  the government released at least ten political prisoners and defines the Catholic Church a timetable for another 16 releases.
"When you get to 10, the Church released and tell me that there is a timetable for the other releases, I'll let the perfect strike, "said Fariñas told AFP by telephone from the hospital in Santa  Clara (280 km east of Havana), where is served from 11 March with intravenous feeding.
"I was with the Church, and agrees with me that that must have previous steps by the Government, the previous steps must be released, "emphasized the cyberjournalist and psychologist, 48 years.
Fariñas demands the release of 26 political prisoners in poor health issue that is part of an unprecedented negotiations between the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and President Raul Castro, after a meeting on Wednesday.




Several priests who visited Fariñas asked "trust and calm "and wait the outcome of these negotiations under way since could coincide with their demand, said Cardinal Jaime Ortega press conference on Thursday.
"We went to see him to express to have a sense of more confidence in the management of the Church, in the sense that some of He asks things could perhaps be achieved, and then he could see things differently, "said Ortega.
Asked if he received any new proposal of the Church, Fariñas said "we are waiting, if we waited 87 days, I think we can wait 87 more, if the body resists, no? " said the report that his health deteriorated.
"There is a suspicion of stone in the right kidney because it is a dilation is not a confirmed thing, and I have a left kidney cyst, "he said, explaining that he had a fever and was detected a bacteria.
The government calls the opposition "mercenaries" of Washington and  deny that there are about 200 political prisoners, according to the dissent. Raul  Castro warned that month and a half ago not "give in to blackmail."
cb / my / ml
S: univision.com