Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bacardi, Rosa María Payá and CubaDecide

 The Bacardi family continues its 150 year tradition of defending Cuban independence and freedom
Today was a day of worry with news that Rosa María Payá had her passport taken away at the airport by regime officials missing her flight to Miami. She had arrived in Cuba on July 17, 2017 to mark five years since her father Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and friend Harold Cepero Escalante had been killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012. She organized a mass on July 20th and visited her dad's tomb with friends and drew attention to the challenges facing Cuba in 2017 and continued to demand justice for her loved ones. However there is also cause for optimism.

Rosa María Payá with Ladies in White during Mass for Oswaldo and Harold on 7/20/17

Bacardi, Rosa María Payá and CubaDecide
The Bacardi family is the antithesis of the Castro family in Cuban history through to the present day. Consider for a moment that Angel Castro, Fidel and Raul Castro's father fought for the Spanish crown against Cuban independence. The Castro brothers emerged out of the worse elements of political gangsterism to impose a dictatorship that has lasted 58 years. In contrast two generations of the Bacardi family fought for Cuban independence with one family member fighting alongside General Antonio Maceo. During the Republic the family not only had enlightened business practices but also engaged in civic activities that promoted a democratic culture. Each time that dictatorship arose in Cuba under Machado, Batista and Castro the Bacardis joined the democratic resistance. Now they have recognized the work of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and that of his daughter, Rosa María Payá and they are supporting the Cuba Decide initiative to push for a democratic transition.

Sayli Navarro, unidentified activist, Rosa María Payá,, and Ivan Hernandez Carrillo,
On July 20, 2017  The Bacardi Family Foundation issued a press release that states, in part, "Cuba Decide: A citizens’ demand for a plebiscite in Cuba is underway and building support on the island and across the world on the heels of the 5th Anniversary of the attack which took the life of Cuban Opposition leader, Oswaldo Payá. The Bacardi Family Foundation selects the citizen movement as their flagship program to support during the 2017 and 2018 year."

The news did not come out of the blue. Back on April 21, 2017  The Bacardi Family Foundation reported it was "working with the Cuba Decide project, the citizen movement for plebiscite in Cuba.  Cuba Decide is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, citizen initiative, whose goal is to organize a vote that changes the oppressive communist party-ruled system into a democratic, multiparty one."

This is a continuation of a long family tradition recognized by Bacardi briefly while downplaying their historic contributions to Cuban independence and liberty as follows:
"Since its early days in Santiago de Cuba, the Bacardi family has demonstrated a belief that our great blessings come with a responsibility to be a positive force in our community. Individually, family members have carried on this tradition as our numbers have grown and as our community has expanded to encompass much of the globe. Since 1997, with the creation of the Bacardi Family Foundation, we have dedicated resources to augment the efforts of family members who wish to continue in the tradition of social stewardship."
Past is prologue
The Bacardi family, began their world famous Rum business in Santiago de Cuba in 1862. Don Facundo Bacardí Massó founded Bacardi Limited on February 4, 1862. The family would also play an important role in civic life in Cuba, especially Santiago over the next century, and were constant opponents of dictatorship, political corruption and remained ardent Cuban nationalists over several generations. Forced into exile by the Castro regime the Bacardi family has maintained the traditions of the Cuban Republic celebrating independence day, carrying on the family business and continuing the fight for a free Cuba.

Emilio Bacardi Moreau
 A history of the Bacardi family written by Tom Gjelten, a reporter for National Public Radio titled Bacardi and The Long Fight for Cuba :The Biography of a Cause led to renewed interest in their role in Cuba's independence.  A 2008 review of the book in The New York Times by Randy Kennedy touches on the figure of Emilio Bacardi Moreau.

Emilio Bacardi, especially, comes to life as the book’s most powerful character, though one so strange that Gabriel García Márquez might have invented him. Emilio was imprisoned twice by Spain off the coast of Morocco for his revolutionary activities. But he still managed to hold the company together, to serve as Santiago’s mayor during the unsettled years of the American occupation, to help found a salon called the Victor Hugo Freethinker Group, to practice theosophy in a predominantly Catholic country and to track down a genuine mummy on a trip to Egypt, which he bought as the centerpiece for a museum he had founded in San­tiago. (Modest he was not; he signed his revolutionary correspondence with the name Phocion, after the Athenian statesman known as “the good.”)
His son Emilio Bacardi Lay actively took part in Cuba's war of independence. In 1895, he was a field officer for Gen. Antonio Maceo during the invasion of Cuba by independence forces. He reached the rank of colonel by the age of 22. He fled Cuba in 1961 due to the Castro regime. Bacardi Imports, Inc., re-established its headquarters in Miami in 1963 after having been based for a century in Santiago de Cuba. Emilio Bacardi Lay died in exile in Miami on October 14, 1972 at the age of 95 and was the last surviving ranking officer of Cuba's war of independence with Spain.

Must read biography of the Bacardi family by Tom Gjelten
This is the history that the Castro dynasty would like to erase but no matter how much they try they will fail because history is what it is and the facts are the facts. Meanwhile to all who read this please consider that if you wish to make a toast to freedom with alcoholic spirits then do it with Bacardi.

Amnesty International: #LiuXiaobo died unjustly in custody, but we can still make China free #LiuXia.

"Her husband Liu Xiaobo died unjustly in custody, but we can still make China free Liu Xia." - Amnesty International

Liu Xiaobo and his wife Liu Xia in happier times
Chinese activist Rose Tang over FaceBook called for solidarity with Liu Xiaobo's widow, Liu Xia who has been forcibly disappeared and following her request signed and shared the petition and her call to action below:
"#LiuXiaobo's poet/artist wife Liu Xia has been missing since her husband died of liver cancer in Chinese police custody on July 13. She's been under house arrest for 7 years since Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010. Her only "crime" is that she's Liu's widow. She's been suffering from severe depression and heart disease.
We're very worried she's been detained, and even worse, she could be murdered by the Chinese government. She was last seen in this photo (below) released by the state-owned propaganda media -- she was being forced to watch the sea burial of Liu's ashes. Liu Xiaobo was cremated merely 2 days after he passed away. His plea from his death bed to let him and Liu Xia leave China to be treated in the west was denied by Beijing.
Pls sign and share this Amnesty International petition for Liu Xia. Thanks!"
Liu Xia forced to watch the sea burial of Liu Xiaobo's ashes

China: Free Liu Xia

Liu Xia has been kept in isolation since October 2010, and she has suffered from psychological stress, anxiety and depression as a result.

Her crime? She refused to stop trying to release her wrongfully imprisoned husband.
Artist, poet, and human rights defender, Liu Xia was placed under illegal house arrest and heavy surveillance and harassed by the Chinese authorities, ever since her late husband Liu Xiaobo was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Especially now that her husband has passed, it’s time the Chinese authorities stop cruelly punishing Liu Xia.

Her husband, Liu Xiaobo, helped devise a call for political reform in China, known as Charter 08. All he did was exercise his human rights: but as a result, he was sentenced to 11 years imprisonment in 2009 for "inciting subversion of state power". He was recognized by Amnesty International as a Prisoner of Conscience.
He was diagnosed with late-stage liver cancer in May and despite repeated requests from Liu Xiaobo and Liu Xia, the Chinese authorities refused to let them travel abroad for treatment.
Although Liu Xiaobo has passed away on 13 July while on medical parole,  he leaves behind a powerful legacy to inspire others to continue the struggle for human rights in China. Our greatest tribute to him will be to ensure that Liu Xia is free to do the same.

Sign the petition and urge Chinese authorities to end the illegal house arrest and surveillance of Liu Xia, stop the harassment and allow her to travel freely:

"We urge your government to end the illegal house arrest and surveillance of Liu Xia, stop her harassment and allow her to travel freely.
Chinese poet, artist and human rights defender Liu Xia was placed under illegal house arrest and heavy surveillance ever since her late husband, Liu Xiaobo, was awarded the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize.

Following her husband's death, it’s time the Chinese authorities stop cruelly punishing Liu Xia."



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cuban dissident Oscar Elías Biscet remembers China's Liu Xiaobo


By Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet 

Liu Xiaobo

The Chinese Communist government had no mercy or tolerance with the sick prisoner, the diagnosis of the disease was late and they only allowed him to leave the jail a few days before he died. 

After a long process of unjust incarceration for "subversion of state power," the Doctor of Literature at the Normal University of Beijing and human rights activist Liu Xiaobo, dies in a Chinese hospital, on July 13 of the current year of a fatal disease: liver cancer.

The Chinese Communist government had no mercy or tolerance with the sick prisoner, the diagnosis of the disease was late and only allowed him to leave the jail a few days before dying to avoid the international scandal of his death in prison.

A few days before the death of Liu, international solidarity became a reality when a medical team of German and American doctors was able to physically access the patient and invite him to receive specialized medical treatment at prestigious health institutions in their respective countries, the hospital of the German University of Heidelberg and the MD Anderson Clinic of the United States of America.
Despite the insistent requests of these friends and sympathizers for his release and proper medical care abroad, the Chinese authorities maintained their perverse negativity to Liu's trip and his abduction until the end of his days.Xiaobo was the chairman of the Chinese Poets, Essay and Novelist Club (PEN Club) and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 when he found himself in prison, the first Chinese citizen to receive the Nobel Prize. His crime was to create a manifesto, Charter 08, which demands democratization, respect for human rights and freedom for the Chinese people.

Charter 08 was signed by more than 300 intellectuals and human rights activists; more than 8,000 supporters from all over the country were added to the hope of establishing the rule of law in China. It was published on 10 of December 2008, the International Day of Human Rights, on the sixtieth anniversary of its creation.Liu had an important track record of opposition work against the Chinese communist dictatorship. During the student protests in Tiananmen Square of 1989, he supported students with a three-day hunger strike to draw public attention and avoid serious government retaliation against the student body. Because of these circumstances he was detained for several months, being the most emblematic figure of the events of Tiananmen. 

In the world many critical voices were raised because of Liu Xiaobo's unfair treatment. However, the most compelling and adjusted to reality was that of Human Rights Watch (HRW), stating that Xiaobo's death "exposes the cruelty of the Chinese government with nonviolent defenders of human rights and democracy" .

Human Rights Watch reaffirms the hope that human beings are born to be free, stating that "although the Chinese government acted with arrogance, cruelty and callousness, the struggle of Liu for a democratic China where rights are respected will remain alive."

Similarly, other institutions such as Amnesty International, the Nobel Committee and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights demonstrated their discontent with the inhumane attitude of the Chinese government. In addition, the governments of the United States, the European Union and the Republic of China (Taiwan), among others, in their maximum representatives, Donald Trump, Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron and Tsai Ing Wen expressed their solidarity with Xiaobo and demanded the release of the widow Liu.
If, during the eight years of unjust imprisonment of the humanist activist Xiaobo, democratic and free governments, especially the West, had acted with the firmness in which they demonstrated when the Chinese Nobel died, I am sure that today we would not be going through these bitter circumstances .

Unfortunately, two Nobel laureates have died under state custody, Carl von Ossietzky, in national socialist Germany in 1938, and Liu Xiaobo, in socialist China, self-titled champion of globalization and free trade. Hitler's Germany had numerous and successful entrepreneurs; as does mainland China. In the latter there are more than 10 million people with great fortunes. However, in neither country, did these successful entrepreneurs raised their voices to condemn the deaths of those awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

They want to forcefully sell us Cubans an evolution of our country to the Chinese "socialist market system" Regardless of the despotism of China's system, in association with the lack of basic human rights and freedoms. That is why we feel the pain of the unjust and untimely death of Liu Xiaobo; because he did not see his dreams come true. The dreams of this icon of freedom are precious goods for those who want a free Cuba.
 Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet is President of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights, President of the Emilia Project, Presidential Medal of Freedom

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Monday, July 24, 2017

Christian Liberation Movement: From Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas to Eduardo Cardet Concepción

Repression against the Christian Liberation Movement remains a constant
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Eduardo Cardet Concepción
 On July 22, 2017 across the world activists and friends of freedom paid homage to Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante five years after they were cruelly taken.  The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) did not end with the untimely and suspicious deaths of Oswaldo and Harold. Following the death of MCL national coordinator Oswaldo Payá members of the organization elected Eduardo Cardet Concepción to lead in 2014.  Cardet was also elected vice president of the Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA). Following the death of Fidel Castro on November 25, 2016 Eduardo Cardet spoke critically of Fidel Castro and his legacy in Cuba while outside of the country to international media saying in part "Castro was a very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our people."

 As the new national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement Eduardo Cardet continued the work of MCL promoting the citizen campaign Project Varela and the proposal to reform the electoral law "One Cuban, one vote" that is being turned into members of the National Assembly of Popular Power.

State Security visited his wife and threatened her that Eduardo Cardet would be sentenced to a long prison term. Despite that Cardet returned to Cuba on November 30, 2016 and was beaten up and arrested in front of his family. In March of 2017 Eduardo Cardet was sentenced to 3 years in prison and Amnesty International has recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.

On April 7, 2017 the Peace and Cooperation Foundation (Fundación Paz y Cooperación) awarded the Freedom of Conscience Annual Prize to Eduardo Cardet.  This prize is seen as not only supporting Eduardo Cardet but all Cuban prisoners of conscience recognized by Amnesty International. The NGO is known for its support of nonviolence and the promotion of a culture for peace.

Eduardo Cardet remains unjustly imprisoned and a prisoner of conscience.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

How the world remembered Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero five years after their murders

Paying homage to two murdered human rights defenders across the Americas

Activists remember Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero in Guatemala

Five years ago on Sunday, July 22, 2012 near Bayamo in eastern Granma province of Cuba the incident provoked by State Security ended the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante. At 5:00pm, in a telephone call, Felix Rivero Cordoví from Bayamo reported"Oswaldo Payá has died in a collision with a police car."  Later we learned that Harold Cepero had also died of his injuries. Five years later and Cuban officials have still not handed over the autopsies to the families. Instead the Castro regime engaged in a massive coverup blaming the driver of the car for the deaths while denying that a second vehicle was involved.

Mass at Ermita de la Caridad celebrated lives of Oswaldo and Harold
 On the fifth anniversary of these suspicious deaths former world leaders such as former Chilean president Sebastian Piñera, former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, former Colombian president Andrés Pastrana, former Costa Rican president Laura Chinchilla, and Mariana Aylwin, daughter of the late Chilean president Patricio Aylwin issued statements recognizing the living legacy of Oswaldo Payá. Others also demanded an impartial investigation into what happened to Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012. The current Secretary Genereral of the Organization American States issued a call "for a professional and impartial investigation."

Message from Secretary General on Anniversary of the Death of Oswaldo Payá

July 22, 2017

Five years ago, on July 22, 2012, Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero died when the vehicle they were riding in crashed into a tree in the eastern Cuban province of Bayamo. Ángel Carromero and Jens Aron Modig were also in the car.

Even today, series and well-founded doubts about the case persist. That is why on this new anniversary of the death of Oswaldo Payá, I join the call of the families of the victims and of all those who demand justice for a professional and impartial investigation.

Oswaldo Payá was perhaps the best-known activist in Cuba because of his tireless work in favor of democracy. Through the Varela Project he promoted the amendment of laws to respect the right to free expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association.

The Varela Project is based on the Constitution of Cuba itself, which under article 88 (g), grants legal initiative to citizens, among other powers.

The freedom to meet, associate and to speech are fundamental rights recognized in international human rights law and all democratic societies.

These principles must be respected. It is unacceptable that those who try to defend their rights are persecuted for their opinions and have their voices silenced.

From the OAS we must always promote respect for basic freedoms, that sovereignty lies in the people, and the most complete validity of human rights.

The struggle of Oswaldo Payá is absolutely inspiring for our defense of these principles and values.
Reference: S-022/17
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in a tweet sent by his office expressed clearly that what happened on that day was an extrajudicial killing.
 Joining Senator Rubio in calling what happened on July 22, 2012 a murder are Senators Dick Durbin, Bill Nelson, Jeff Merkley, and Cuban Americans Bob Menéndez and Ted Cruz. They are demanding an independent and impartial investigation into what happened on that day.

Activities were carried out across the Americas remembering the legacy of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero with peaceful gatherings and masses held in Miami, Cuba, Guatemala, Spain. The solidarity of the shaken was on display when family members of Venezuelan political prisoner Mayor Antonio Ledezma sent messages of solidarity and support recognizing Oswaldo's legacy. 
Hopefully the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will do its job and complete its investigation into killings of Oswaldo Payá and Harold Cepero finally after five years. Currently we only have the report prepared by Human Rights Foundation that indicates that the official version put out by the Castro regime was a coverup and that this was most likely an extrajudicial killing.