Posted on Thursday, 07.21.11
Ros-Lehtinen urges constituents to post photos of Cuban human rights abuses
U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen urges constituents to post photos of Cuban human rights abuses to U.S. diplomats' Facebook page.By Juan O. Tamayo
Incensed that the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana is sponsoring a photo contest on its Facebook page, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen is urging her South Florida constituents to submit their own photos "of the heinous crimes the Castro regime has committed."
"I was appalled to learn of this photo contest sponsored by our very own Interests Section in Havana because if anyone knows the reality of life in Castro's Cuba, it is our diplomats serving there," declared Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami, in a statement Wednesday.
"To counter this deceptive nonsense, I have asked Secretary of State (Hillary) Clinton to look into this and I am now inviting all freedom loving people to submit pictures of the many crimes committed by the Castro regime to the USINT Facebook page," she added.
Ros-Lehtinen, the chairwoman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is known for her steadfast and often sharp-tongued criticisms of Cuba's communist system. The island's official news media often calls her "la loba feroz" – the fierce she-wolf.
Her statement included a list of six "heinous crimes the Castro regime has committed," from the 1996 killing of four Brothers to the Rescue pilots to the 2010 death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo and the harassment of women dissidents known as the Ladies in White.
"These are the pictures that illustrate what life in communist Cuba is really like and not the fuzzy and warm pictures USINT is highlighting of children frolicking in pools or young men playing with dolphins," Ros-Lehtinen added.
The Facebook page of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana, known as an Interests section because the two countries do not have full diplomatic relations, is hosting the photo contest titled "Memories of Summer."
Cesar Chavez Confidante Tries to Cover Up Fidel's CrimesPosted by Humberto Fontova on May 23rd, 2011 and filed under FrontPage.
The list of Mexican-Americans decorated for valor by the U.S. Navy is long and glorious. The list of Navy Gold-Star mothers of Mexican heritage is equally long and glorious. It's bad enough to ignore these heroes and heroines when rummaging for a "Hispanic" name for a U.S. Navy ship. It's even worse to name the ship after the co-founder of an organization that defends the murder of a decorated Hispanic Navy vet and lobbies for the convicted murderer's release on behalf of a State-Sponsor-of-Terrorism that craved to nuke the U.S. To wit:
Dolores Huerta co-founded the United Farm Workers of America with Cesar Chavez and still serves as its "Vice President emeritus." Nowadays she busies herself as an (unregistered) agent of the Castro regime lobbying for the release of a Castroite terrorist serving two life terms after conviction by U.S. juries on espionage and conspiracy to commit murder. In the parlance of the Castro regime and their agents (on the payroll and off) this terrorist and his accomplices are known as "The Cuban Five." Here's Cesar Chavez's soul-sister reading Castro's script about them.
Now here's some background on "The Cuban Five" you won't get either from Ms Huerta or from her soul-sisters and brothers in the MSM:
On September 14, 1998, the FBI uncovered a Castro spy ring in Miami and arrested 10 of them. Five were convicted by U.S. juries (from which Cuban-Americans were scrupulously excluded) of espionage and of conspiracy to commit murder (of a decorated U.S. Marine.) One of the terrorists serves two life sentences and the convictions of all five were upheld by an appeals court. According to the FBI's affidavit, the 26 charges against the convicted Castro-terrorists championed by the soul-sister of a Navy ship's namesake include:
•Gathering intelligence against the Boca Chica Air-Naval Station in Key West, the McDill Air Force Base in Tampa and the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Homestead, Fla. (which includes the U.S. Navy's 4th Fleet.)
•Compiling the names, home addresses and medical files of the U.S. Southern Command's top officers, along with those of hundreds of Naval officers stationed at Boca Chica Naval station.
•Infiltrating the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command.
•Sending letter bombs to Cuban-Americans.
•Spying on McDill Air Force Base, the U.S. armed forces' worldwide headquarters for fighting "low-intensity" conflicts.
•Locating entry points into Florida for smuggling explosives.
Huerta's poster-boys also infiltrated the Cuban-exile group Brothers to the Rescue who flew unarmed planes to rescue Cuban rafters in the Florida straits, also known as "the cemetery without crosses." The estimates of the number of Cubans dying horribly of thirst, exposure, drowning and shark attacks in the "cemetery without crosses" run from 20,000-60,000."
FONTOVA:Jimmy Carter does HavanaEx-president sympathizes more with Castro thugs than their murdered victimsBy Humberto FontovaThe Washington Times
Embracing a recent invitation by the Castro brothers, Jimmy Carter visited Cuba last week. "We greeted each other as old friends," gushed the former president after his meeting with Fidel Castro.
"In 2002, we received him warmly," Fidel reciprocated. "Now, I reiterated to him our respect and esteem."
"Jimmy Carter was the best of all U.S. presidents," gushed Raul Castro while personally seeing off his American guest.
Jimmy Carter earned all this warmth, esteem and joviality from Cuba's Stalinist rulers by doing everything within his power to dismantle the so-called embargo against them. "The embargo of Cuba is the stupidest law ever passed in the U.S.", he said in 2002. And yet, as president, Mr. Carter imposed more economic sanctions against more nations than any other American president in modern history. These sanctions were against Chile, Iran, Rhodesia, Nicaragua, South Africa, Paraguay and Uruguay. Mr. Carter was extremely selective in imposing his sanctions – let's give him that. He was careful to punish only U.S. allies.
In Cuba, Mr. Carter also took time to visit and console some bereaved Cuban families. According to the "Black Book of Communism" (no tome of the vast, right-wing conspiracy, much less of the "Miami Mafia") Mr. Carter's Cuban hosts murdered 12,000 to 14,000 Cubans by firing squad. According to Freedom House, more than half a million Cubans have suffered in the Castros' various gulags, dungeons and torture chambers, an incarceration rate higher than Josef Stalin's. According to the scholars and researchers at the Cuba Archive, the Castro regime's total death toll – from torture, prison beatings, firing squads, machine-gunning of escapees, drownings, etc.-approaches 100,000.
So Mr. Carter would seem to have little trouble in finding bereaved Cuban families to meet. And he did meet the grieving families of some Cuban-born prisoners. But these prisoners were serving time in U.S. prisons, after being convicted by U.S. juries for espionage against the nation that elected Jimmy Carter president and for conspiracy to murder fellow citizens. These Cubans, you see, are the ones who tugged at Mr. Carter's heartstrings.
Some background: On Sept. 14, 1998, the FBI uncovered a Castro spy ring in Miami and arrested 10 people. Five were convicted by U.S. juries (from which Cuban-Americans were scrupulously excluded) and became known as "the Cuban Five" in Castroite parlance.
According to the FBI's affidavit, these Castro agents were engaged in, among other acts:
c Gathering intelligence against the Boca Chica Air Naval Station in Key West, the McDill Air Force Base in Tampa and the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command in Homestead, Fla.
c Compiling the names, home addresses and medical files of the U.S. Southern Command's top officers, along with those of hundreds of officers stationed at Boca Chica.
c Infiltrating the headquarters of the U.S. Southern Command.
c Sending letter bombs to Cuban-Americans.
c Spying on McDill Air Force Base, the U.S. armed forces' worldwide headquarters for fighting "low-intensity" conflicts.
c Locating entry points into Florida for smuggling explosive material.
One of these Castro agents, Gerardo Hernandez, also infiltrated the Cuban-exile group Brothers to the Rescue, who flew unarmed Cessnas to rescue Cuban rafters in the Florida straits, also known as "the cemetery without crosses." Estimates of the number of Cubans who have died horribly there run from 30,000 to 50,000. Brothers to the Rescue often would drop flowers into the sea for those they had been unable to rescue.
These pilots risked their lives almost daily, flying over the straits, alerting and guiding the Coast Guard to any rafters and saving thousands of these desperate people from joining that terrible tally. Before the Castro Revolution, Cuba was deluged with more immigrants per capita than the United States.
In February 1996, Castro agent Gerardo Hernandez fulfilled his mission by passing the flight plan to Castro for one of the Brothers' humanitarian flights. With this information in hand, Cuba's top guns saluted and sprang to action. They jumped into their MiGs, took off and valiantly blasted apart (in international air space) the utterly defenseless Cessnas. Four members of the humanitarian flights were thus murdered in cold blood. MiGs against Cessnas, cannons and rockets against flowers.
Three of these murdered men were U.S. citizens, one a decorated Vietnam veteran. The other was a legal U.S. resident. No record exists of Jimmy Carter ever meeting with their families. But in Havana, Jimmy Carter smilingly met with the families of the man convicted in U.S. courts of helping murder them, and with Raul Castro himself, who personally gave the order to shoot down the defenseless planes.
"I had the opportunity to meet the families of the five Cuban patriots" (Hernandez's among them), Mr. Carter said during an interview with Castro media apparatchiks, "with their wives and with their mothers. … I'm well aware of the shortcomings of the U.S. judicial system [but apparently not the Cuban] but hope that President Obama will grant their pardon. He knows my opinion on this matter, that the trial of the Cuban Five was very dubious, that many norms were violated."
In the Castros' fiefdom, people are sent to the firing squad and prison based on Che Guevara's famous legal dictum: "Judicial evidence is an archaic bourgeois detail. We prosecute and execute from revolutionary conviction."
So during an interview in Havana, Jimmy Carter saw fit to castigate "the shortcomings of the U.S. judicial system," and hailed the Castros' KGB-trained and U.S. convicted spies as "patriots."
No wonder P.J. O'Rourke famously dubbed Jimmy Carter, "that most ex of America's ex-presidents."
Humberto Fontova is author of "Fidel: Hollywood's Favorite Tyrant" (Regnery, 2005).
Posted on Monday, 04.04.11Carter Cuba visit
Former President Carter's Cuba report draws fire
Former President Jimmy Carter's visit to Cuba last week is generating more controversy, with one critic calling him a "shill" for Havana and another pointing out mistakes in his report on the visit.
Carter's 1,500 word report, issued Sunday, essentially recorded the meetings he held and some of the comments he heard during his three-day stay in Havana, which he described as a "private" visit to explore ways of improving U.S.-Cuban relations.
The trip drew praise as an attempt by the former president, who made human rights a keystone of his time in the White House, to dissipate some of the acrimony that traditionally dominated bilateral relations.
"His gentle manner, unbending smile and projection of modesty could not possibly contrast more with the thermal rhetoric and testosterone-driven style that typically dominates here and in Miami," wrote Nick Miroff in the Web site Global Post.
Anti-Castro activists blasted him as naïve and worse, however.
"It's hard to see him as anything but a shill for Cuba's military dictatorship," conservative columnist Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote in The Wall Street Journal.
Mauricio Claver-Carone, head of the anti-Castro U.S.-Cuba Democracy political action committee, noted that Carter's report devoted just one oddly-worded paragraph to his meeting with independent bloggers and dissidents recently freed after nearly eight years in prison.
The dissidents, Carter wrote, "complained about their difficulty in getting renewed ID cards and drivers' licenses" and insisted that other dissidents who accepted exile in Spain as a condition of their release be permitted to return to Cuba.
Dissidents Oswaldo Payá and Angel Moya told reporters last week that they had told Carter they wanted free elections and human and civil rights.
Claver-Carone also noted that Carter's version of the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue airplanes by Cuban warplanes, killing four South Florida residents, was factually wrong. He mentions one plane and insinuates that it was flying over Havana. The two planes shot down never violated Cuban airspace, according to a U.N. investigation.
"It's Cuba's version of the events,'' he added.
Carter also met with Cuban rulers Raúl and Fidel Castro; Ricardo Alarcon, head of Cuba's legislative National Assembly of People's Power; Cuban and U.S. diplomats; and Alan Gross, a U.S. government subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence in Havana.
He described Fidel Castro as "vigorous, alert'' and said the former leader's main health issues were his left knee and right shoulder, injured in a 2004 fall. Carter made no mention of the intestinal infections that nearly killed Castro in 2006.
The report noted that Gross was being held in a hospital and had complained that he was receiving better treatment than other prisoners, although after his arrest in late 2009 he was treated worse than the others.
Gross was accused of delivering satellite communications equipment to Jewish and other "marginalized" group in Cuba as part of a program financed by the U.S. government to expand Cubans' access to the Internet.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez acknowledged "some positive steps" by the Obama administration but complained that the overall impact of recent U.S. policies were "very damaging," especially the tightening of controls on Cuba's use of U.S. dollars in financial transactions, Carter wrote.
His report added that Rodriguez also noted that a U.S. government program to promote democracy in Cuba, "which is a regime change strategy funded at $20 million, remains a serious source of concern" for Havana.
Carter's report added that he also met with two mothers and three wives of the five Cuban spies convicted in Miami and serving long sentences in U.S. prison.
"Their trial in the highly charged Miami political climate was considered to be biased by a U.S. appellate court, but subsequent appeals have been denied," he wrote, again using imprecise language.
One of the five's appeals, based on their argument that their trial should have been moved out of Miami, was upheld by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. That ruling was later overturned by the full Appeals Court. The same Appeals court also upheld the five convictions, but ordered a reduction in the sentences for two of the Cubans.
Posted on Tuesday, 03.22.11
Cuban spy claims innocence in downing of planeBy CURT ANDERSONAP Legal Affairs Writer
MIAMI — In a new appeal, a convicted Cuban spy insists he is innocent of any role in shooting down exile planes that dropped pro-democracy leaflets in 1996 on the communist island and helped rescue migrants in the ocean.
"I came to Florida in service to my country, unarmed, to contribute to end violence against my people and therefore to save lives," Gerardo Hernandez, 45, said in a sworn statement filed in Miami federal court. "That I would be charged with a conspiracy to murder was the furthest thing from my thinking and reality."
Hernandez is one of the so-called Cuban Five, convicted in 2001 of spying in the U.S. He is also the only one serving a life sentence for a murder conspiracy conviction arising from the Brothers to the Rescue planes that were shot down by Cuban fighter jets, which killed four men.
Attorneys for Hernandez are asking U.S. District Judge Joan Lenard to throw out his conviction and sentence, based in part on his new claims filed Monday.
In the documents, Hernandez contends he was never told that he could have been tried separate from the others on the murder conspiracy charge. If he had, Hernandez said he would have testified in his own defense that he was innocent, something he did not do in the spy trial.
Attorney Richard Klugh said Hernandez could not testify in the spy trial because he would have had to admit on the stand that he was a Cuban agent and could not call his co-defendants as witnesses.
"He clearly had no involvement in the shootdown in 1996," Klugh said. "Clearly there was a clamor for someone to take responsibility for it, but Gerardo Hernandez is not responsible."
The Miami U.S. attorney's office had no immediate comment.
Hernandez said in the affidavit he was unaware of any Cuban plan to shoot down the exile planes. Instead, he said he was involved in a plan labeled "Operation Venecia" to call international attention to their purported violations of Cuban sovereignty.
"The idea that Cuba would elaborate a plan to confront those planes on international waters was to me, and still is, absurd and irrational," Hernandez said in the affidavit.
In one new wrinkle, Hernandez also said that he was replaced for several months by an agent known as "A-4" or "Miguel," who took possession of a computer disk the spies used to decode messages from Havana. That's significant because Hernandez said he did not have the disk when he supposedly sent a message warning that no Cuban agents should fly on the exile planes from Feb. 24-27 in 1996.
The Brothers to the Rescue planes were shot down Feb. 24.
His affidavit also contends U.S. prosecutors portrayed a commendation he received and a promotion as linked to the downing of the planes. In fact, Hernandez said, he was promoted from lieutenant to captain along with dozens of others strictly based on length of service.
Hernandez has lost several other appeals, while three of the Cuban Five had their sentences reduced in 2009 because they never obtained top secret U.S. information – despite efforts to do so – from military installations such as the Miami-based Southern Command and Key West's Boca Chica Naval Air Station. The five are hailed as heroes in Cuba.
Brothers to the Rescue Shootdown Anniversary will be Commemorated in MiamiPublished February 24, 2011Fox News Latino
Brothers to the Resue says it aims to rescue Cuban rafters making their way to the United States. The Cuban government accuses them of entering Cuban airspace and of terrorist acts.
Brothers to the Resue says it aims to rescue Cuban rafters making their way to the United States. The Cuban government accuses them of entering Cuban airspace and of terrorist acts.
Memorials will be held in Miami today over the 15th anniversary of the Brothers to the Rescue tragedy — when the Cuban military's shot down exile planes dropping pro-democracy leaflets over Cuba.
Four members of the organization were killed.
Outrage among Cuban exiles over the 1996 shooting halted the Clinton administration's tentative efforts to reach out to the communist government and paved the way for the Helms Burton Act, which turned the U.S. embargo to Cuba into permanent law. Previously it had been maintained under an executive order that a president could rescind at any time.
Relatives and supporters planned to join survivors and other members of the Brothers to the Rescue group at the Opa-locka Airport from where the planes took off in 1996 and later at a memorial in Hialeah Thursday afternoon. The group had been warned about flying over Cuban airspace but says its pilots were not over Cuban airspace when they were attacked.
During the 1990s, the group also helped identify and rescue Cubans fleeing the island by boat through the treacherous Florida Straits.
The Hermanos al Recate anniversary comes one day after the first anniversary of the death of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo following an 83-day hunger strike. He was imprisoned for disrespecting authority.
Zapata's death drew worldwide attention to the plight of the island's dissidents in advance of that anniversary, the Cuban government detained Zapata's mother for 12 hours.
On Wednesday, the U.S. issued a statement condemning the treatment of Zapata's mother and commemorating his death. The statement did not include any reference to the Brother to the Rescue anniversary.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.
Posted on Thursday, 02.24.11
Exiles march in support of Cuban dissidentsBy LUISA [email protected]
About 3,000 people crowded a stretch of Southwest Eighth Street in Little Havana Thursday to mark the 15th anniversary of the shoot-down of four Brothers to the Rescue fliers and call for the release of political prisoners in Cuba.
Waving Cuban flags and placards with the image of Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo — who died a year ago following a hunger strike – marchers called for "Liberty for political prisoners" and a "Free Cuba." Among the marchers were numerous community activists and political leaders, including Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Congressional Reps. David Rivera and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.
The march on Calle Ocho, between Southwest 4th and 13th Avenues, was expected to continue through late afternoon.
The fliers being honored are: Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa, Mario de la Pena and Pablo Morales . They were shot down by Cuban MiGs on Feb. 24, 1996, while flying near Cuba. A vigil also is scheduled to take place Thursday evening in Hialeah.
On Thursday, Congressman David Rivera called for the indictment of Fidel and Raul Castro.
"Fifteen years ago, Raul Castro gave the order that brought down the Brothers to the Rescue planes, and he faced no consequences. For the last 14 months he and his brother have held an American citizen, Alan Gross, hostage for distributing humanitarian assistance on the island. Instead of being penalized for repeated attacks on American citizens and residents, the Castro brothers have most recently been rewarded through unilateral concessions from the Obama administration in the form of relaxed restrictions on travel and remittances to Cuba,'' Rivera said in a prepared statement..
"The Obama administration needs to do more, beginning with revoking the recent concessions given to the Castro dictatorship and indicting the Castro brothers for their murderous role in the Brothers to the Rescue shootdown. This will send a clear message that acts of terror and repression are not acceptable or tolerable,"
Posted on Wednesday, 02.23.11 Brothers to the Rescue For Albright, Cuba remains important cause The former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, in Miami to open an exhibition of her pins, remembers the day 15 years ago when Cuban fighter jets shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes. BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO [email protected] Until Cuban fighter pilots shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes, killing four men over international waters between Cuba and Florida on the afternoon of February 24, 1996, Madeleine Albright’s ruby and diamond-studded blue bird pin was simply an antique piece of jewelry in the U.S. ambassador’s extensive collection. But the soaring bird’s image took on special meaning when Albright, wearing the pin upside down to show outrage and mourning, denounced the Cuban government before the United Nations, uttering her now famous line: “This is not cojones. It is cowardice.” The vulgar word for testicles was heard being used in a recorded transmission by one of the Cuban pilots after one of the planes went down. Fifteen years later, the bird pin (circa 1880) opens the exhibition of Read My Pins: The Madeleine Albright Collection, a showcase at Freedom Tower of 200 of the politically charged pins Albright wore during her years as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and Secretary of State, the first woman to hold the post. The Miami Dade College exhibition’s opening to the public Thursday coincides with the 15th anniversary of the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down being commemorated by Cuban exiles with various events: a circle of prayer at 10:30 a.m. at the Opa-locka Airport, from where the planes flew that fateful day; a ceremony at the time the first plane went down, 3:23 p.m., at the center fountain of Florida International University’s main campus; a 6 p.m. vigil at the sight of a Brothers memorial monument in front of Hialeah Gardens City Hall; and a 7 p.m. mass at St. Agatha Catholic Church. Killed that day were Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa, Mario de la Peña and Pablo Morales. Their families and MDC announced last week that they have established scholarships in their names. “We all feel a long and great sadness for the families,” Albright said about the anniversary date. A Czechoslovakian immigrant who rose to become one of the highest-ranking government officials in the Clinton administration, Albright said that she had “a special feeling for Miami” and is a strong supporter of the Cuban-American community’s efforts to see democratic changes take root on the island. “I would like to see Cuba libre,” Albright said, adding that she supports the Obama administration’s policies of stepped-up contact with the island through increase travel and remittances. “Cubans are remarkable people…things are happening.” All over the world, “people do want to be able to exercise their rights and that is what we’re seeing,” she added. For Brothers to the Rescue members, survivors of the tragedy and supporters, the anniversary date stirs more complicated feelings. “Fifteen years later, we’re still without truth or justice,” said José Basulto, founder of Brothers to the Rescue, who piloted the only Cessna able to get away from the Cuban jets that day. “We’re still waiting for a full investigation of the events of that day but my efforts of 15 years to get a full accounting from the Clinton Administration’s handling of events leading up to and during that day have gone unheard.” On that day, Sylvia G. Iriondo also was in Basulto’s plane along with her late husband, Andres J. Iriondo. “It was 15 years ago that this heinous crime against American citizens was perpetrated in international airspace by the Castros’ dictatorship,” said Iriondo, founder of the exile group Mothers Against Repression. “It feels like today. I can still see Armando, Carlos, Mario and Pablo’s smiling faces full of hope as they got ready for another Brothers to the Rescue mission of love. The events of that 24th of February will forever remain imprinted in my soul. I knew something horrible had happened and thought about all of our families as I glanced at the immense blue of the Straits of Florida and saw the smoke. At this moment of uncertainty and impotence, I remember grasping my rosary and my husband’s Andres’ hand. Today, 15 years later, I still have and pray my rosary; sadly, my husband’s comforting hand no more.” Despite the criticism and controversy over the Clinton administration’s handling of the events of that day, Albright remains a sympathetic figure in the exile community for her unrelenting condemnation of the Castro regime. Albright’s visit to Miami, where she spoke Wednesday morning before the Miami Leadership Roundtable about world events, was not without levity. As she greeted the media for a Tuesday afternoon tour of her exhibition, she brought up the subject of her controversial use of the vulgar slang at the United Nations right away with one quick line. “I only know one word in Spanish,” she said. During her visit, Albright wore a sparkling gold brooch that Miami Dade College President Eduardo Padrón gave her as a gift years ago. Asked what kind of pin she would wear now to show her feelings about Cuba, Albright said without hesitation: “I might wear a turtle because it has been slow for the Cuban people.” http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/02/23/v-fullstory/2081716/for-albright-cuba-remains-important.html
Posted on Sunday, 02.20.11
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was one of Cuba's least-known political prisoners, a 42-year-old Afro-Cuban plumber and bricklayer from the remote eastern town of Banes.
But when he died one year ago Wednesday at the end of an 83-day hunger strike, he became the face of the island's dissidence – his photo projected onto Cuban government buildings, his name invoked in condemnations of the Castro regime around the world.
Zapata's death energized other dissidents, turned hunger strikes into a credible weapon against the communist system and arguably forced Raúl Castro to ease the harassment of the Ladies in White and later to start freeing their 52 jailed men.
The anniversary of his death on Wednesday will be marked, on the island and abroad, by Castro critics as an example of the revolution's human rights abuses and lack of concern for the life of a dissident.
"No one should allow the date to pass by because finding a martyr in the 21st century is not easy,'' said dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who launched a hunger strike a day after Zapata died and halted it the day after Castro agreed to free the 52 men.
Fariñas and several other dissidents in Cuba declined to reveal their plans for marking the anniversary.
"I don't want to make the work of State Security any easier,'' he said by telephone from his home in the central city of Santa Clara.
State security agents, however, are widely expected to detain scores if not hundreds of dissidents around the island to avert any large gatherings of opponents on Wednesday, said Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz.
Zapata Tamayo's mother, Reina Luisa Tamayo, told El Nuevo Herald Saturday that security agents already have her house "and all of Banes surrounded to prevent the arrival of the brothers who support us in this struggle.''
Agents armed with rifles are patrolling the woodlands behind her house and others are checking the documents of all passengers on buses arriving in Banes, said the mother, who was detained for 12 hours Friday after a confrontation with a security agent.
The anniversary of Zapata's death comes at a sensitive time for Cuba – amid the pro-democracy demonstrations in Iran and Yemen and in the aftermath of popular revolts that toppled the governments of Tunisia and Egypt. The 24th also is the anniversary of Cuba's shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes in 1996 in which four people were killed.
Zapata was 35 years old when he was sentenced to three years in prison in 2003 for ''disobedience" and "defiance.'' Amnesty International declared him a "prisoner of conscience,'' though he was not among the 75 dissidents arrested that year in a crackdown known as Cuba's "Black Spring.''
By the time he died, his stubborn insistence in denouncing prison abuses had gotten him additional sentences totaling 36 years – and what fellow inmates described as a string of beatings.
"A few times I saw guards pull him out of his cell with no shirt and hands cuffed. They would throw him to the floor and drag him by his feet about 200 meters over rough cement,'' fellow prisoner Efrén Fernández was quoted as saying in a human rights report.
Zapata also spent several days in his cell with his hands cuffed behind his back and to his also-cuffed ankles in a "torture'' known as "the little rocker,'' Fernández added in the report, filed two months after the prisoner's death.
He stopped eating on Dec. 3, 2009, to protest the abuses at the Kilo 7 prison in Camagüey province. Prison guards, trying to force him to abandon the hunger strike, then denied him water for 18 days, his mother alleged.
His back was "bruised from blows'' when he was finally transferred to a Camagüey hospital on Feb. 17, the mother declared at the time. "He was skin and bones, and his stomach was sunk in.''
When Zapata died six days later, she accused the government of "premeditated murder.''
Reports of his death were published around the world and sparked broad condemnations of the Cuban government, though the island's official news media did not mention the event for several days – and then only to try to portray him as a common criminal.
The criticisms of Cuba mushroomed when Fariñas declared he would not eat or drink until 26 ailing political prisoners were freed – or he died. A psychiatrist already looking skeletal from 23 previous hunger strikes, his threat was taken seriously.
Zapata "spent 80-some days on a hunger strike and no one paid attention. It was his death that changed all that,'' said Farinas, whose own strike was followed closely by foreign journalists and diplomats in Havana.
CARDINAL STEPS IN
Although the government initially said it would not bow to Fariñas' "blackmail,'' a public hospital later admitted him and kept him alive with round after round of intravenous fluids usually very difficult to find on the island.
Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega later noted that he decided to approach the Raúl Castro government in the spring of 2010 because the death of Zapata and the outrage it had sparked "was causing instability.''
Following Ortega's approach, government-organized mobs in April stopped their brutal harassment of the Ladies in White, all female relatives of the 75 peaceful dissidents jailed in the "Black Spring.''
And on July 7, Ortega announced Castro had agreed to free the last 52 of the 75 still in prison. Two dozen already had been freed for health reasons. All but seven of the 52, plus two dozen other political prisoners, have now been freed.
Fariñas halted his fast the next day – after 135 days.
Outside Cuba, ''Zapata Lives!'' became a rallying cry for a broad array of groups: exiles who denounced his "murder,'' governments that condemned the island's human rights record and black activists who pointed out that Zapata was black. A Miami group produced a one-hour documentary on Zapata's life. A Web site "Orlando
Zapata Tamayo: I Accuse The Cuban Government,'' gathered 53,000 signatures; The U.S. House and Senate approved resolutions praising Zapata and lashing Havana.
Exile artist Geandy Pavón, in a protest that garnered much publicity, began projecting Zapata's photo onto buildings like the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington and the New York auditorium where Cuban singer Silvio Rodriguez was giving a concert.
Zapata's mother told El Nuevo Herald she expects security officials will try to block any attempts to honor him Wednesday at his grave in the Banes cemetery.
Over the past year they have repeatedly detained and strip-searched her and her supporters, harassed their children in school and even told her that her son had a homosexual relationship in prison, she claimed.
"But I always shout at them, 'Zapata Lives!' '' she said. "Since he fell, our family has continued the struggle of Orlando Zapata Tamayo – searching for freedom and democracy for all Cubans.''
The Alan Gross Case: A Blow to Obama's Soft Cuba PolicyPosted February 7th, 2011 at 3:00pm in American Leadership
On February 4, the Cuban government announced it will demand a 20-year prison sentence for U.S. citizen Alan Gross. The 61-year-old Maryland resident was arrested in December 2009 in Havana after visiting Cuba to distribute satellite phones to Jewish and other civil society groups. Although details of his activities remain sketchy, Gross was employed by Development Alternatives, Inc., a U.S. State Department contractor, rendering democracy support work in the field. Gross was helping deliver technologies of freedom that Cuba's leaders greatly fear.
After over a year in jail, Gross, who is in declining health, is now formally charged with the commission of acts against "the integrity and independence" of Cuba. A Havana show trial will soon follow.
The case is of high importance to the Obama Administration. Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Arturo Valenzuela noted on January 11 that the Obama Administration "made it clear to the Cuban authorities that it's very difficult to move to greater engagement in the context where they have continued to hold Alan Gross." Cuban readiness to prosecute and condemn Gross to a slow death in a Havana prison is a heavy blow to the Administration's soft policy of enhanced engagement.
Over the past two years, the Obama Administration has sought to improve ties with Cuba by using executive authority to lift restrictions on travel and the dispatch of remittances to the island. The last round of liberalization measures were introduced in early January. It has also conducted several rounds of immigration talks with senior Cuban officials.
The underlying assumption of this policy is that greater access to the island by Cuban–Americans, more "people-to-people" exchanges, respectful dialogue on issues of mutual interest, and easier transfers of remittances will build shared confidence and closer ties. Since 2009, the Obama Administration has distanced itself from the tough, pro-democracy stance of the Bush Administration, frequently derided as a strategy of "regime change." Obama has embraced a strategy aimed at dialogue, tension reductions, and readiness to engineer a "soft landing" as the Castro brothers fade from the political scene and a succession crisis looms on the horizon.
Yet, not unexpectedly, Cuban behavior in the Gross case is consistent with previous responses to U.S. openings. Once more the open hand of the Obama Administration encounters the clenched fist of Cuban tyranny. While less tragic, the Gross case is reminiscent of events such as the cold-blooded murder of four Cuban-Americans belonging to the Brothers to the Rescue in 1996. This brutal act torpedoed a budding effort by the Clinton Administration to improve relations with the Castro regime.
Cuba's message is clear: At the political core of the regime are its rejection of open dissent, pluralism, and genuine democracy and a reaffirmation of the principles of democratic centralism and political conformity so central to the Marxist–Leninist regime. It is also a reflection of deeply rooted anti-Americanism and "siege-mentality" situated at the core of the regime's ideology.
In Cuba, where all justice is political, there are still avenues open to Raul Castro. He can magnanimously pardon Gross after a conviction. At the back of Raul's mind may be further pressure on the U.S. to pardon or release the so-called Cuban Five, who are charged with spying for Cuba in the 1990s. Many in the Obama Administration and Democrats in Congress are hoping the Gross case will be just a speed bump on the way to better relations with the Castros. In the interim, Gross faces a bleak and unjust incarceration.
When the world's eyes are focused on Egypt and growing demands for real democracy there, Cuba—90 miles from the U.S.—remains a bastion of anti-democracy ruled by the Castro brothers for more than 50 years. Standing up for democracy in Egypt should not be matched by silence on Cuba.
Tags: Alan Gross, cuba
Posted on Friday, 01.28.11VERBATIM
Convicted Cuban spies got their due
Editor's note: This is The Miami Herald's editorial position about the Cuban Five spy trial, which was first published June 18, 2009, under the headline: Spies got fair trial:
By choosing not to hear an appeal in the so-called Cuban Five case, the U.S. Supreme Court sent an important message: Cuban spies received a fair trial in Miami-Dade County.
It's laughable that Ricardo Alarcón, who heads the Cuban National Assembly, would maintain that the justices didn't hear the case because “the Obama administration asked them not to.'' The Castro government and its apologists prefer to ignore the evidence, including wiretaps, presented at trial.
A history lesson for Mr. Alarcón: In the United States there are checks and balances guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, and the judiciary is independent. In one-party Cuba, with a rubber-stamp judiciary, that's simply not the case.
American judges can make mistakes — and there have been abuses — but they are not political instruments of the White House. And most certainly not this president. Most of the justices on the court were appointed by Republican presidents — not by Mr. Obama's Democratic Party.
The five convicted spies, arrested in 1998 as part of the Wasp Network, are serving sentences from 15 years to life for acting as illegal agents of the Cuban government. The communist regime says the spies were only getting information about anti-Castro groups in South Florida.
That's not all they were doing. Had the cases been solely about gathering information without registering with the U.S. government as a foreign agent the sentences would have been shorter. No, the Castro government and its apologists prefer to ignore the evidence, including wiretaps, presented at trial.
Three of the spies also were part of an espionage conspiracy that involved spying on U.S. military installations, like Homestead Air Force Base.
The Wasp ringleader, Gerardo Hernández, was convicted for conspiring to commit murder in connection with the 1996 shoot-down by Cuban MIGs of an unarmed Brothers to the Rescue plane, which would scour the sea for rafters and at least once had come close enough to Havana to dump anti-Castro leaflets. Three U.S. citizens and one permanent U.S. resident in the Brothers plane were killed, thanks to the work of Mr. Hernández and others.
Defense attorneys argued on appeal that the men could not receive a fair trial in Miami. Certainly those were tense times, but the court took care in selecting impartial jurors. Not one juror was of Cuban descent, for instance.
The defense may find other arguments to attempt to appeal again. That's their right in a free country — a right denied to Cubans under the dictatorship.
Posted on Saturday, 10.30.10Wife of Cuban spy visits husband in U.S. prison
The wife of accused Cuban spy Gerardo Hernández visited her husband in a U.S. prison, upsetting Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.BY JUAN O. [email protected]
The wife of convicted Cuban spy Gerardo Hernández was allowed to visit him in his U.S. prison last month for the first time in 12 years, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen's office confirmed Friday.
Ros-Lehtinen spokesman Alex Cruz said the Republican congress member “raised hell'' when State Department officials briefed her on the visit, after it had taken place.
“We again raised the fact that they are treating Alan Gross and this convicted spy as equals,'' said Cruz, referring to the U.S. government subcontractor jailed in Havana. “We were assured that there was no such linkage.''
Cruz said the wife's visit took place in early or mid-September — shortly after Gross's wife Judy was first allowed to visit him in Havana, where he has been jailed without charges since Dec. 3.
Adriana Pérez visited her husband at the federal prison in Victorville, Calif., according to the blog Cafe Fuerte, which first reported the visit Thursday.
Hernandez, leader of the Wasp spy network rolled up by the FBI in 1999, was sentenced to life in prison for his role in Cuba's 1996 shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes that killed four South Florida residents.
Perez had been denied U.S. visas to visit her husband for the past 12 years, and became a central part of the Cuban government's campaign to push for the release of Hernandez and the four other jailed members of the Wasp network.
Cuba's government has not acknowledged Perez' visit. Evidence presented at Hernandez's trial showed she was undergoing intelligence training in Havana at the time of his arrest so she could join him in Miami.
The timing of the Perez and Judy Gross visits to their husbands fueled concerns by Ros-Lehtinen and relatives of the Brothers to the Rescue victims over a possible swap — Alan Gross for Hernández.
Alan Gross was arrested after he delivered satellite equipment to Cuba's Jewish community. He has not been formally charged, though Cuban officials have alleged he was involved in intelligence gathering activities. U.S. officials deny the allegation.