Cuba Chronicle of Events
No. 35 • May 01-15, 2007
Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, Russia, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, based in Washington, D.C. This edition is based on reports from PRIMA-News, Bitacora Cubana, CubaNet, Puente Informativo Cuba Miami, Martí Noticias, Directorio Democrático Cubano, ITAR-TASS, and NEWSru.com.
Oppositionists in Matanzas Seek International Support
Ranchuelo, Cuba. On April 18, eight human rights activists in Jovellanos municipality, Matanzas province, launched an appeal seeking international support for Cuban dissidents due to increasing government repression on the island.
In the document, the oppositionists urged various international organizations such as the United Nations, Reporters Without Borders, People in Need, Human Rights Watch, and other rights advocacy groups and individuals to demand that the Cuban government stop the persecution and arrests of peaceful Cuban oppositionist activists.
The authors of the appeal, who belong to the Pro Human Rights Party affiliated with the Andrei Sakharov Foundation, condemned the unfair trial and four-year prison sentence handed down to Oscar Sánchez Madan, a political analyst and independent journalist, for “pre-criminal social dangerousness.”
Ladies in White Urges EU to Press Cuba on the Release of Cuban Prisoners
The Ladies in White, a group comprised of women family members of 75 Cuban dissidents convicted to harsh prison terms in Spring 2003, called upon the European Union to continue their demands for the release of political prisoners on the island.
The Ladies in White, awarded the Andrei Sakharov Prize by the European Parliament in 2005, has urged the international community to press the Cuban regime for the immediate and unconditional release of 59 prisoners of conscience from the so called Group of 75, and a medical parole for 11 other political prisoners.
The wives and mothers of the jailed dissidents invited European intellectuals to visit their modest homes in Cuba to see first-hand how prisoners’ families live and asked them to seek Cuba’s permission for foreigners to be allowed to pay unscheduled visits to Cuban jails to speak to prisoners. The group stated that Cuba’s communist regime has not moved an inch toward democracy and respect for human rights, but instead continues to repress, arrest, and convict peaceful activists, the group said.
The Ladies in White also emphasized the importance of the death in January 2007 of Miguel Valdés Tamayo, who was granted a medical parole in 2004, which, they write, proves that the lives of all the prisoners are in danger.
Christian Liberation Movement: Varela Project Is In Force
The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL), a Cuban opposition group, said the Varela Project presented to Cuba’s National Assembly on May 10, 2002 calling for democratic changes is still alive and in force as, five years later, the demand for such changes persists.
MCL coordinator Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas has been promoting the initiative since 1996. The project proposes changing certain Cuban laws and opening areas for free and responsible participation of citizens in government and society, and requests the support of the public for a referendum on changing those laws.
We did not come to commemorate the past but to announce the road to liberation, said Payá in a statement, in which he emphasized that 11,000 people who signed the Varela Project petition five years ago and those who are signing it now can be proud of their liberating and solid efforts that are opening the road to hope.
In May 2002, the year after he launched the Varela Project, Payá presented the document for debate to Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power, but the Cuban government declared the socialist character of the Cuban revolution “irrevocable.”
Ladies in White March through Havana on Mother’s Day
Over forty members of the Ladies in White movement, which brings together women relatives of 75 dissidents and intellectuals convicted in Spring 2003, marched through Havana on Mother’s Day, which is celebrated in Cuba on May 13, to demand the release of all political prisoners.
Laura Pollán, wife of the prisoner of conscience Héctor Maseda, told the press that the women’s primary goal is the unconditional release of all jailed dissidents, but at a minimum they were asking that their loved ones be moved to prisons nearer their homes.
As is their tradition, after Mass at the Santa Rita Church in Havana, the women, all dressed in white with red gladioli in hand, marched through Fifth Avenue, where many embassies are located. The day earlier, on Saturday, May 12, they gathered in downtown Havana to lay flowers at La India Fountain on Prado Street and pray for the release of Cuban political prisoners.
Cuban Dissident Leader Awarded French Human Rights Prize
Cuban lawyer René Gómez Manzano has been awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux Human Rights Prize for 2007 for demanding that the Cuban government establish and abide by the rule of law, stated the Human Rights Institute of the Bar of Bordeaux, France. In 1997, the dissident was similarly honored by the American Bar Association.
The lawyer, 63, has campaigned for an independent judiciary in Cuba where lawyers, under Cuban law, are required to be members of collective law offices controlled by Fidel Castro’s communist regime, said the prestigious French organization. Gómez Manzano was released in early February after being held in prison for 18 months. He had been arrested on July 22, 2005 and accused of preparing to attend a demonstration in front of the French Embassy in Havana. He had been held in indefinite detention without court proceedings.
Human Rights Council Launched in Cuba
Cuban opposition leaders have announced the creation of the Human Rights Rapporteur Council of Cuba. Its principal aims will be to report human rights violations by the communist regime and, working in concert with other initiatives, to obtain the release of all political prisoners
The Council is formed by a diverse group of dissidents and former political prisoners, including Roberto de Miranda, Edel José García, and Margarito Broche, who were among the group of 75 arrested during the Black Spring in 2003. Its members also include Jorge Luis García Pérez (also known as Antúnez), who was released in April after serving 17 years in prison, as well as the human rights activist Juan Carlos González Leiva, also recently released from prison.
According to a statement given by Leiva, the Council’s objective is to monitor the human rights situation in Cuba through strengthened and coordinated efforts of Cuba’s internal dissident movement. The dissident said that since Fidel Castro has delegated power to his brother Raul on July 31, 2006, the human rights situation on the island has worsened in all aspects.
Cuban Dissident Detained for Wearing Bracelet
Santa Clara, Cuba. Police detained peace activist Osmany Osorio Herrera on April 17 in Aguada de Pasajeros for wearing a bracelet with the inscription “Cambio” (Change).
Osorio Herrera, a member of the Democracy Movement, was standing across from the Post Office, with a ‘ready-for-rent’ three-wheel bicycle when he was approached by the chief of the local Technical Department of Investigations (DTI), Alfredo Alba Valdivia, and a State Security agent named Roberto. The State Security agent asked the dissident for his ID and then told him to take off the bracelet because the word “cambio” has an anti-revolutionary connotation. Osmani refused, and the police officers took him to the station where they forcibly took his bracelet off. After holding him for two hours, they returned his documents and told him to clear off at once.
Freedom House Ranks Cuba among Worst of the Worst
Cuba is among seventeen countries judged to have the world’s worst records on both political rights and civil liberties, according to Freedom House, a human rights group. In a worldwide survey called “The Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies in 2007,” the democracy watchdog organization ranked Cuba’s communist regime next to Burma and North Korea. Of the 17 countries rated with the worst records, thirteen have been on the list for five or more years. In these countries, independent organizations and political opposition are banned or suppressed, and fear of retribution for independent thought is part of daily life, underlines Freedom House.
Fidel Castro Misses May Day Rally
A massive rally held on May Day in the Cuban capital was presided over by acting President Raul Castro, as his brother, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, again failed to appear at a major public event. But Cuba’s main communist newspaper Granma published on this day an editorial signed by Fidel Castro in which he criticized the use of food crops for biofuel but did not say a word about his health or give an indication when he might return to power. There had been speculation that Fidel Castro might appear in public on May Day for the first time since emergency intestinal surgery last July. Bolivian President Evo Morales said he was certain Castro would resume his duties on May 1. However, Cuban officials had not confirmed or denied the speculation.
‘Political Trial’ to Begin in Cuba for Elderly Terrorist Blamed for 1976 Bombing
Cuba is to stage a “political trial” for Luis Posada Carriles, whose charges of entering the United States illegally were recently dismissed by a U.S. District judge, on charges of plotting the 1976 downing of a Cuban airliner off Barbados that killed 73 people aboard, among other terrorist acts. According to Julio Martinez, first secretary of Cuba’s Communist Youth organization, the mock “anti-terrorist tribunal” will hear indisputable evidence to pin numerous acts of violence against Cuba on Posada, now 79 years old, including a wave of bomb blasts at Cuban hotels in 1997 that killed one man.
Washington to Support Only Legal Immigration from Cuba
The government of the United States has reaffirmed its policy supporting only safe, legal and orderly immigration from Cuba. The Castro regime is accusing Washington of provoking acts of violence such as a fierce gun battle that broke out at Havana’s international airport on May 3 when three fugitive Cuban soldiers attempted to hijack an airplane to flee the island. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana said in an official communiqué Washington supports only legal, safe and orderly migration, and has called upon Cubans to stay on the island to promote transition to freedom.
Cuban Regime Might Execute Fugitive Soldiers
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported that three army deserters who killed a Cuban army officer in a shootout at Havana’s international airport, could face capital punishment. The three were identified as Alaín Forbes, Leandro Cerezo, both aged 19, and Yoan Torres, 21 years old. According to Commission chairman Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, Cuba’s draconian legal code calls for capital punishment for persons over 20 for committing similar acts of disobedience in aggravating circumstances. The rights group called on organizations around the world to request Cuba’s communist regime not to use capital punishment. In 2003, three black men were executed in Cuba for hijacking a passenger boat to escape the island, although no one was killed in that incident.
Washington Ponders Castro’s Health
In response to Radio Martí questions at a press briefing in Washington about Fidel Castro’s recent remarks in the press, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, stated that it had no more information about his state of health, but believed in the end there would be a democratic transition in Cuba.
“He has not, as far as I know, assumed the duties again as leader of the Cuban regime. I think the experience over the past, you know -- six to nine months or so -- certainly does indicate however that there is some form of transition underway. We don't know how long that transition is going to take. We hope at the end of that transition that the Cuban people will have the opportunity to freely choose who leads them and who leads their government,” he added.
Speaking on Congressman Bill Delahunt’s (D-MA) letter to President George W. Bush asking for anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles to be re-arrested, McCormack said it was a Department of Justice issue.
Radical Party Announces International Conference on Cuban Labor Rights
The Radical Party and the International Group for Social Corporate Responsibility in Cuba (GIRSCC) will hold an international conference on May 15 in Rome, Italy, to discuss violations of Cuban workers’ labor rights, and involvement of Telecom Italia in the Cuban state phone monopoly ETECSA.
“On the day when we see around us a traditional May Day picture, when Revolution Square in Havana is packed with hundreds of thousands of people who gathered there to celebrate the Day of Workers’ Solidarity, it is necessary to remember some not so well known facts. Should anyone, for example, refuse to obey the order to take part in a rally organized by the Cuban Communist Party, he might risk disciplinary sanctions or lose his job as the state is still the sole employer in Cuba,” reads the Radical Party’s press release.
“Working conditions in Cuba are hard. Wages are fixed at the hungry level and vary from 15 to 25 dollars per month; forming and joining an independent trade union is prohibited; human labor is heavily exploited, particularly in the tourist industry,” the document further adds. In addition to labor rights, the conference will discuss a social responsibility of foreign enterprises operating in Cuba, including Telecom Italia’s which invests in the Cuban state telecommunications company ETECSA used by Cuba’s security services for tracking and stopping illegal access to the Internet, and thus keeping the lid on dissent.
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The Cuba Chronicle of Events is produced by the Prima News Agency, based in Moscow, Russia, in cooperation with the Institute for Democracy in Eastern Europe, based in Washington, D.C. Items are reproduced with attribution from other news agencies. Please direct inquiries and comments to Editor, Cuba Chronicle of Events, Prima-News at [email protected] or [email protected].