Posted: 24 Apr 2013 08:10 AM PDT
The tense standoff continues between Cuban democracy activists and Castro's security forces in eastern Cuba.
There are now over 50 activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), led by Jose Daniel Ferrer, on hunger strike demanding the release of 40 of their colleagues from prison.
On Monday, Rubilandis Avila Gonzalez, an UNPACU activists, was intercepted by security forces, arrested and nearly beaten to death.
Avila was later taken to a local hospital as a result of the beating, where he was left semi-unconscious, weakened from excessive bleeding and has received numerous stitches to head lesions.
He remains in a critical state.
Below is a picture of the UNPACU activists on their public hunger strike:
Posted: 23 Apr 2013 05:14 PM PDT
Excerpt from the remarks by Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, during today's Sakharov Prize Award Ceremony for the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White):
You are used to long marches. You are courageous and perseverant women. This march from Cuba to Brussels has taken quite a long time: more than seven years!
I am very happy that the day we can host you at the European Parliament has come.
Today, you, Damas de Blanco, are able to receive the well deserved Sakharov Prize.
Allow me to pay tribute through this ceremony to Laura Inès Pollan Toledo, co-founder and former President of the Damas de Blanco, who died in October 2011.
Dear Berta, ten years ago, when your husband, Angel Moya and Laura's Husband, Hector Maseda Gutiérrez, were detained during the black Spring both of you decided to protest peacefully against these arbitrary detentions. You were immediately joined by many wifes, sisters, mothers and daughters of activists. You marched and continue to do so every Sunday down Havana's streets calling for the release of all political prisoners.
From that day, your peaceful struggle became the symbol of Cuban resistance for freedom and dignity.
Your cause is shared by thousands well-known or anonymous Cubans living in or outside Cuba. Allow me to pay tribute to two of them, dear to our hearts, Oswaldo Payà and Guillermo Farinas, Sakharov Prize in 2002 and in 2010.
Last year Oswaldo Paya passed away in car accident but his ideas will survive and continue to inspire generations of Cuban activists. Let me also mention the courage of Guillermo Farinas who conducted over 20 hunger strikes and protest against the regime and in support of all political prisoners.
Posted: 23 Apr 2013 05:13 PM PDT
In the weeks leading up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the U.S. Department of State highlights emblematic threats to journalists while continuing to call on all governments to protect the universal human right to freedom of expression.
Today it highlighted the case of imprisoned Cuban journalist Jose Antonio Torres.
Here's the report:
For today’s Free the Press Campaign case as we continue our walk-up to World Press Freedom Day in Costa Rica next week, we’d like to highlight Jose Antonio Torres, a journalist for the official Granma newspaper in Cuba.
He was arrested in February 2011 after Granma published his report on the mismanagement of a public works project in Santiago, and subsequently sentenced to 14 years in prison on charges of spying.
The United States calls on the Government of Cuba to release him.
Posted: 23 Apr 2013 04:16 PM PDT
By Vanessa Garcia in The Huffington Post:
As someone who writes about ABCs (American Born Cubans), Cuba, and Cuban-Americans, people often ask me the following question: "If it's so bad in Cuba, why don't Cubans revolt?" Why don't the people inside the island pour out into the street and lift their fists into the air, burn effigies, call out for freedom?
Images of the Arab Spring, blooming across our multi-media screens, have brought this question further to the forefront in recent years.
In the past, others have tried to answer this question by claiming that Cuba is too insulated to revolt. That not enough information seeps into the island to empower its people. Another answer is that hungry generations have been more busy figuring out how to eat than how to dethrone the government that was responsible for their stomach's growl.
But there's more. My response is as follows: If you are asking this question -- if you are sitting back, chewing a stick of gum, and asking yourself why Cubans don't act, then you're not paying close enough attention.
There is an uprising surging from Cuba -- voices coming up from cyberspace, like that of dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who since 2007 has been clacking away at her computer, sending messages across continents and nations, one byte at a time. For years she has been saying, in her blog Generation Y: This is Cuba -- when we rise up, they jail us; when we strike against injustice, they let us die of hunger. As they let prisoner of conscience, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, die during a hunger strike while imprisoned in 2010.
Zapata Tamayo was imprisoned, according to Amnesty International, "solely for having peacefully exercised [his] rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly."
Meanwhile, Berta Soler, who leads the Ladies in White -- a group that has been protesting against the imprisonment of their loved ones since 2003's Black Spring -- continues to march.
During 2003's Black Spring, the Castro regime arrested 75 human rights activists, journalists, writers, and librarians for threatening the "territorial integrity of the state." Since then, and on every Sunday, the Ladies in White rally down Fifth Avenue in Havana, making their presence and demands known, despite harassment and threats. They want their husbands free; they fight for the same rights their friends, lovers, and husbands were jailed for -- what the Varela Project demanded: democratic and constitutional reform for Cuba.
The Varela Project, launched in the late '90s by Oswaldo Payá, proposed freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, free elections, free enterprise, and the release of political prisoners. Payá died last year in a car accident -- an accident that his daughter, Rosa Maria Payá, has bravely claimed was no accident at all.
"Today," she said to the UN in March of this year, "we urge the United Nations to launch an independent investigation into the death of my father. The truth is essential..." In her speech, she implicated the Cuban government in the murder of her father. She ended her speech by asking: "When will the people of Cuba finally enjoy basic democracy and fundamental freedoms?"
These women, Sanchez, Soler, and Payá, write, march, speak, and protest. They have traveled outside of Cuba and have, as best they could, tried to spread the word that Cuba and Cubans are ready for change.
These women are, in short, the representatives of a rising up from silence. This may not be the kind of revolution we've seen from the Arab Spring, not yet, and perhaps (though of this we cannot be sure) not ever, nor is it the kind of revolution that got Cuba in trouble to begin with -- not the green-fatigued cry of their forefathers.
This is a revolution of pens, sharp as their wits; of wills, strong as their desire for justice and democracy; of voices and words that beg for change. This is Civil Disobedience. If 2003's Black Spring was a wilted one, left to rot enclosed in cells, un-watered, then 2013's spring, ten years later, is a stronger spring -- the nearly full-grown bloom of a long, hard, and labored planting and irrigation season.
The Cuban Spring is almost here. Now all we have to do is listen closely and respond.
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