Sunday, November 19, 2017

Don’t tell us we’re not Cuban: The Real Havana Club

#ForeverCuban #TheRealHavanaClub


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. They have recognized the work of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and earlier this year that of his daughter, Rosa María Payá and they are supporting the Cuba Decide initiative to push for a democratic transition.



Now they are setting the record straight and defending the legacy of Havana Club with a challenge: Don’t tell us we’re not Cuban.
"The Arechabala Family started their rum-making business in 1878 in Cuba and first registered the original Havana Club trademark in 1934. It wasn’t long before Havana Club Rum became a beloved and iconic Cuban brand – becoming a favorite amongst locals as well as American and European tourists.

Then everything changed. On January 1st, 1960, at gunpoint, the Cuban regime unrightfully seized the company’s assets without compensation. The Arechabala family lost everything and was forced to flee the homeland they loved, with a scant few of their remaining possessions – the precious Havana Club recipe being one of them. Meanwhile, the Cuban Government started to sell their stolen version of Havana Club, and continues to do so to this day.

It wasn’t until 1995 – after decades of rebuilding, the Arechabala family finally joined forces with another Cuban family in exile: Bacardi. The latter acquired the Havana Club brand and began producing rum based on the original Havana Club recipe and selling it in the one country that didn’t recognise the Cuban Government’s 1960 illegal expropriation, the United States.

The Havana Club brand is an example of how, despite the circumstances, Cubans in exile have never accepted their fate. Havana Club rum holds onto its rich Cuban culture." 
Let us look forward to the day that both Bacardi and the real Havana Club can return to Cuba and make the rum on their home turf and not in exile. But that necessitates the return of freedom that also means private property rights, freedom of expression and freedom of association.
  

With Mugabe's impending departure will Ethiopian war criminal Mengistu finally face justice?

"When we planned our country's economic development, we had the strategic objective of our Revolution in mind. It was not planned for economic development [to be] solely an end in itself. There are some who have forgotten that the sole basis of our revolutionary struggle was the ideology and politics which we follow..."- Mengistu Haile Mariam (1987)


Mugabe flanked by Army Chief Chiwenga delivers speech at State House in Harare /AP
Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is in the midst of a power struggle within the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) he co-founded in Zimbabwe in 1987 and the military. Officially, ZANU–PF has a socialist ideology. The party maintains a politburo and a Central Committee. During the 1970s and 1980s Mugabe self-identified as a Marxist-Leninist but re-branded himself a socialist following the collapse of the East Bloc and the Soviet Union, but his close relationship with the Castro regime continued. The 93-year old attended Fidel Castro's funeral last year and reflecting on the Cuban dictator's death said "I have lost a brother."


Close Allies: Fidel Castro and Robert Mugabe
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, and is refusing to resign, but within the ranks of his fellow party members and the military are demanding for an end to his rule. Events in Zimbabwe are being followed closely in Cuba, and also in Ethiopia

Mugabe's regime is particularly loathsome. There is documentation on the use of rape as a political weapon to silence women in Zimbabwe. AIDS-Free World in 2009 published a detailed report titled Electing to Rape: Sexual Terror in Mugabe's Zimbabwe which analyzed the situation there during the 2008 elections and the aftermath:
In the weeks immediately after the June 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, AIDS-Free World received an urgent call from a Harare-based organization. The human rights activists were overwhelmed with reports from women associated with the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who had been raped by members of President Robert Mugabe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, in a vicious campaign to intimidate voters and emerge victorious in the presidential election. In response, AIDS-Free World undertook a series of investigative trips to the region with teams of lawyers to interview survivors of this violence. What emerged from the testimony was a brutal, orchestrated campaign of rape and torture perpetrated by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF youth militia, agents of Zimbabwe’s Central Intelligence Organization (CIO), and people who identify themselves as veterans of the liberation war (known as war veterans) affiliated with ZANU-PF. The exceptionally violent rapes, as described by women from every province of Zimbabwe, were often nearly fatal. Survivors’ terror was prolonged by fears that their attackers were among the 15% of adults infected with HIV in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe may have stopped calling himself a Marxist Leninist after the implosion of the USSR but the use of terror to maintain power continued long after and he protects his friends who have the same ideology.

There is an international communist movement that operates as a network. Fidel Castro on April 3, 1977 met in East Berlin with Erich Honecker about the need to help the revolution in Ethiopia and talked up Mengistu Haile Mariam, an emerging new Marxist-Leninist leader. Fidel Castro celebrated the initiation of the Red Terror on February 3, 1977 in Ethiopia: "Mengistu strikes me as a quiet, serious, and sincere leader who is aware of the power of the masses. He is an intellectual personality who showed his wisdom on February 3. [] The prelude to this was an exuberant speech by the Ethiopian president in favor of nationalism. Mengistu preempted this coup. He called the meeting of the Revolutionary Council one hour early and had the rightist leaders arrested and shot. A very consequential decision was taken on February 3 in Ethiopia. []Before it was only possible to support the leftist forces indirectly, now we can do so without any constraints."

Fidel Castro lounging with Mengistu Haile Mariam, in Ethiopia in 1977
During 1977-78, a conservative estimate of over 30,000 Africans perished as a result of the Red Terror unleashed in Ethiopia by the communists and their Cuban allies. Amnesty International concluded that "this campaign resulted in several thousand to perhaps tens of thousands of men, women, and children killed, tortured, and imprisoned." Sweden's Save the Children Fund lodged a formal protest in early 1978 denouncing the execution of 1,000 children, many below the age of thirteen, whom the communist government had labeled "liaison agents of the counter revolutionaries."
Fidel and Raul Castro were both deeply involved in sending 17,000 Cuban troops to South Africa in assisting Mengistu in consolidating his rule and eliminating actual and potential opposition. The last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until 1989 and were present and complicit in the engineered famine that took place there.  In 1990 traveling on a train through East Germany on my way to Prague, I spent some time speaking with an Ethiopian economist who told me how Cuban troops would round up starving Ethiopian farmers when they got close to the cities, with grain stores, and drove them back out into the countryside to starve. Donald R. Katz in the September 21, 1978 Rolling Stone article "Ethiopia After the Revolution: Vultures Return to the Land of Sheba" gave the following description of the wave of terror and repression unleashed by Mengistu.
"Toward the middle of last year [1977], Mengistu pulled out all the stops. "It is an historical obligation," he said then, "to clean up vigilantly using the revolutionary sword." He announced that the shooting was about to start and that anyone in the middle would be caught in the cross fire. In what came to be known as the "Red Terror," he proceeded to round up all those who opposed the military regime. According to Amnesty International, the Dergue killed over 10,000 people by the end of the year. One anti-government party, mostly made up of students and teachers, was singled out as 'the opposition.'"
 Human Rights Watch in their 2008 report on Ethiopia titled outlined "Collective Punishment War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in the Ogaden area of Ethiopia’s Somali Region" some of the practices carried out by Cuban troops sent there by Fidel and Raul Castro excerpted below
Africa Watch (the precursor to Human Rights Watch’s Africa Division) analyzed Ethiopian counter-insurgency operations in this period and found that they followed a four-pronged approach: i) the forced displacement of much of the civilian population into shelters and protected villages; ii) military offensives against people and economic assets outside the shelters; iii) the sponsoring of insurgent groups against the WSLF and Somali government; and iv) attempts to promote the repatriation of refugees.23 In December 1979, a new Ethiopian military offensive, this time including Soviet advisors and Cuban troops, “was more specifically directed against the population’s means of survival, including poisoning and bombing waterholes and machine gunning herds of cattle.”24
Raul Castro and Fidel Castro with ally Mengistu Haile Mariam
Fidel Castro addressing Cuban and Ethiopian troops in Ethiopia in September of 1978 celebrated the bloody victory in that country proudly proclaiming the Castro regime's involvement.
"Comrade Cubans, I can recall those days of December 1977 and January 1978 when we said farewell to the first Cuban internationalist combatants who were leaving for Ethiopia. [...]Eighteen months later we have returned to a Ethiopia which is victorious be cause of its combative sons' heroism and the support of international solidarity, as Comrade Mengistu stated 2 days ago. Moreover, it is also an already powerful Ethiopia. Tuesday's popular parade confirmed the enormous popular support for this revolutionary change. Yesterday's military parade tells us of the degree of organization and discipline achieved by the combative and courageous fraternal Ethiopian people. The rapid revolutionary offensive of the Ethiopian and Cuban troops practically annihilated the enemy. [...]Ethiopian brothers, together with you we have fought and we have won. Together with you we are ready to fight again and to win again. Together with you we pledge: Fatherland or death, we shall win!"
The last few years of the Cuban government's collaboration with the Ethiopian communist regime were particularly brutal, and reminiscent of Stalin's treatment of the Kulaks in the 1930s. During the 1984-85 famine in northern Ethiopia, which shocked the conscience of the world and led Bob Geldof to organize the 1985 international rock concert "Live Aid," Cuban troops, following the lead of their ally, made the famine worse by refusing to allow food to be distributed in areas where inhabitants were sympathetic to opposition groups and engaging in a policy of "forcibly resettling people."

Charles Lane of The Washington Post in the December 1, 2016 article "Castro was no liberator" described how "the last Cuban troops did not leave Ethiopia until September 1989; they were still on hand as hundreds of thousands died during the 1983-1985 famine exacerbated by Mengistu’s collectivization of agriculture." Mengistu was forced out of power in 1991 and fled to Zimbabwe.

In an interview published in 2003 by Riccardo Orizio in his book, Talk of the Devil: Encounters with Seven Dictators, Mengistu defended his actions in Marxist-Leninist terms,  "I'm a military man, I did what I did only because my country had to be saved from tribalism and feudalism. If I failed, it was only because I was betrayed. The so-called genocide was nothing more than just a war in defence of the revolution and a system from which all have benefited."

Mengistu was found guilty of genocide in Ethiopia on December 12, 2006, and was sentenced to life in prison in January 2007. He was sentenced to death in absentia on May 26, 2008 following an appeal. Mengistu currently resides in Zimbabwe under the protection of African dictator Robert Mugabe. Question now arises that if Mugabe is forced to resign, will the new government turnover the now 80-year old war criminal to Ethiopian authorities to face justice?

Communist networks will defend Mengistu because the mass killings and manufactured famine that caused over a million deaths in Ethiopia was done "in defense of the revolution." In the same manner that Fidel Castro defended the revolution in Cuba in the early 1960s exterminating Cuban peasants who resisted the imposition of communist rule, with the critical help of 400 Russian advisors. This approach of mass murder and genocide to consolidate total power was carried out by Lenin and the Bolsheviks a century  ago in Russia.  On August 11, 1918 in a telegram sent to his communist comrades Lenin laid out the need to impose terror by setting an example: "1.You need to hang (hang without fail, so that the people see) no fewer than 100 of the notorious kulaks, the rich and the bloodsuckers. 2.   Publish their names. 3.   Take all their grain from them. 4.   Appoint the hostages — in accordance with yesterday’s telegram. This needs to be done in such a way that the people for hundreds of versts around will see, tremble, know and shout: they are throttling and will throttle the bloodsucking kulaks. Telegraph us concerning receipt and implementation. Yours, Lenin. PS. Find tougher people."

Mengistu's monstrous actions in Ethiopia was not an aberration but the faithful fulfillment of the guide book for a Marxist-Leninist to achieve and maintain power. This is the real reason why Robert Mugable protected this war criminal and odds are that if the new rulers of Zimbabwe are Marxist Leninists, like their predecessor they will continue to do so. Otherwise they would all be subject to being hauled before international courts for war crimes and crimes against humanity.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Danish student gunned down by soldier in Cuba in 1997 and disappeared in Cuba

Joachim Løvschall, a Danish student studying Spanish at the University of Havana gunned down by an AK-47 wielding Cuban guard as he walked home on the evening of March 29,1997. The body remained hidden for days. The shooter was never identified. Ten years after his son's extrajudicial execution, Christian Løvschall spoke at a parallel forum in Geneva Switzerland about what had happened
Joachim Løvschall: December 7, 1970 - March 29, 1997
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on the small corner of Cuba and on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism. 


There have been many non-Cuban victims of Cuban communism. This sixth entry focuses on a young man murdered for being at the wrong place at the wrong time. Imagine for a moment that you are studying Spanish in Cuba, spending time out having dinner with friends and going to the theater. A few hours later you are gun down in the street by a soldier of the Castro regime wielding an AK-47 because you were on the wrong sidewalk but there was no warning.

Communist soldier in Cuba killed Danish student with an AK-47 in 1997
 
Previous entries in this series where about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently. The first entry concerned Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a humble bricklayer turned courageous human rights defender who paid the ultimate price in 2010 for speaking truth to power. The second entry focused on Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, a Catholic lay activist, nonviolence icon, husband, father of three and the founder of a Cuban opposition movement that shook up the Castro regime with a petition drive demanding that human rights be respected and recognized in Cuba. This action and speaking truth to power led to his extrajudicial killing in 2012. The
third entry focused on one of the great crimes of the Castro regime that has been well documented by international human rights organizations and reported on ABC News Nightline that claimed the lives of 37 men, women, and children. They were trying to flee the despotism in Cuba to live in freedom and were extrajudicially executed. In the fourth focused on an act of state terrorism when two planes were shot down on a Saturday afternoon at 3:21 and 3:27 on February 24, 1996 over international airspace while engaged in a search and rescue flight for Cuban rafters killing four humanitarians. Their planes were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by a Cuban MiG-29 aircraft on the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro.
In the fifth focused on Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Wilman Villar Mendoza who died on hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment on January 19, 2012 at the age of 31 left behind two little girls, a young wife and grieving mother.

Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a soldier of the Castro regime in Havana, Cuba twenty years ago today on March 29, 1997. The identity of the soldier has never been revealed to Joachim''s family. No one has been brought to justice. Joachim's family is not satisfied with the official explanation.

Goose stepping soldiers in communist Cuba
The last time they saw Joachim
On March 28, 1997 Joachim Løvschall ate his last dinner with white wine in a little restaurant called Aladin, located on 21st street in Havana. He went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater. Following the performance he went to the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met up with two Swedish friends. They each drank a couple of beers, but soon left because Joachim did not like the music. At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. 


Joachim was never seen alive again. 

The Castro regime's version of what happened
On September 28, 1997 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article by Kim Hundevadt titled "Dangerous Vacation" that outlined what happened to Joachim Løvschall and presented the Castro dictatorship's version of the events leading to this young man's death:


Around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in at night.
At 2:45am he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.
Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.
The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down. The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.
Joachim Løvschall
Ten years ago
On June 12, 2007 Christian Løvschall, Joachim's father, at a parallel forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council spoke about his son's disappearance and the struggle to find out if Joachim was dead or alive:

"Although the killing took place on the 29th of March, we only came to know about it on the 6th of April - i.e. after 8 days were we had the feeling that the Cuban authorities were unwilling to inform anything about the incident. Only because of good relations with Spanish speaking friends in other Latin American countries did we succeed in getting into contact with the family with whom Joachim stayed and the repeated message from their side was that they could reveal nothing, but that the situation had turned out very bad and that we had to come to Cuba as soon as possible. At the same time all contacts to the responsible authorities turned out negatively... Only after continued pressure from our side on the Cuban embassy in Copenhagen, things suddenly changed and the sad information was given to us by our local police on the evening of the 6th of April. We are, however, 100% convinced that had we not made use of our own contact and had we not continued our pressure on the embassy in Copenhagen, we might have faced a situation where Joachim would have been declared a missing person, a way out the Cuban authorities have been accused of applying in similar cases."
 Ten years later Christian Løvschall outlined what he knew concerning his son's untimely death:

We do feel we were (and still are) left with no answers except to maybe one of the following questions: Where, When, Who, Why Starting out with the where we were told that Joachim was killed by the soldiers outside the Ministry of Interior.

Where

What we do not understand is why no fence or signs did inform that this is a restricted area? I have been on the spot myself, and the place appears exactly like a normal residential area. So you may question whether this in fact was the place of the killing? Contrary to this the authorities keep maintaining that the area was properly sealed off, and the relevant sign posts were in place.

When

As to when Joachim was killed we only have the information received from the police because of the delay informing one might believe that this is another forgery made up to cover the truth.

Who

The who was in our opinion has never been answered by the Cuban authorities. We understand that a private soldier on duty was made responsible for the killing, and also it has been rumored that his officer in charge has been kept responsible. This is of course the easy way out, but why can't we get to know the whole and true story?   
Why

Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him? Was Joachim violent and did he, an unarmed individual, attack the armed soldiers? Or is it simply that the instruction to Cuban soldiers are: first you shoot and then you ask? But again: Who can explain why two shots were needed?

Despite the claims made by the travel industry there have been other travelers to Cuba who have been killed or gone missing under suspicious circumstances. Twenty years later and justice is still denied to Joachim's family and friends.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Amnesty International releases important report on how Castro regime uses job sector as "a tool of repression"

"Many Cubans feel suffocated by a web of state-control over their daily lives. Part of that control is: if you want to hold a job, you have to agree with everything the government says." - Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International


November 16, 2017

Cuba: Job sector, a tool of repression as perceived critics face jobless life

Ordinary Cubans perceived to be even subtly critical of life in the country face a future of harassment at work, or unemployment as authorities use their control over the job market as an additional tool of repression, Amnesty International said in a new report today.

Your mind is in prison explores how decades of arbitrary use of criminal laws and other unlawful practices -- including discriminatory and wrongful dismissals from state-employment and further harassment in the emerging self-employed sector -- translate into a system where even Cubans who are not politically active have to avoid criticizing the government if they want to hold a job.

“Many Cubans feel suffocated by a web of state-control over their daily lives. Part of that control is: if you want to hold a job, you have to agree with everything the government says,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“As Raúl Castro prepares to step down in February 2018, Cuba has an opportunity to open a meaningful dialogue on human rights. It is imperative that the country starts making the necessary changes for freedom of expression to become a reality for people.”

The Cuban government is the largest employer in the country - approximately 70% of the jobs available are in the public sector. The government also controls the small and emerging, but highly regulated, private sector.

Cuba remains the only country in the Americas where Amnesty International is not allowed to officially visit. The organization’s researchers spoke to more than 60 Cuban migrants in various cities in Mexico to document their testimonies about daily life in a country where freedom of expression has been historically restricted.

Most of the people interviewed had never been overtly critical of Cuba’s political or economic system and were not involved in any form of activism or political opposition. Still, approximately half said they were arrested and imprisoned at least once, mostly accused of crimes that are inconsistent with international law.

For example, one woman, a former shop assistant, told Amnesty International that she had spent eight months in prison in 2011 for “illegally buying beef”, before a judge acquitted her after finding there was insufficient evidence for her detention.

Cuba’s Penal Code also provides for a range of sanctions based on the proclivity of an individual to commit a crime, and the perceived likelihood of potential future actions that could be considered “anti-social”. It also punishes those who have relations with people considered by the authorities as “potentially dangerous for society” or who “pose a threat to the social, economic or political order of the socialist state”.

“Everything is illegal in Cuba”, said a former state security agent, whose job was to infiltrate job places to report on workers in the country.

Those who even delicately disapprove of the Cuban government’s policies are either arbitrarily dismissed from their jobs or harassed by the state until they feel they have no option but to resign or leave the country. Once dismissed from state employment for expressing a critical view, it is nearly impossible for people to find other state employment.

Most people who spoke to Amnesty International said that when they approached new potential state employers, after being dismissed from a previous job, they were rejected and simply told “you aren’t trustworthy” (no eres confiable). The phrase – explicitly used to mean an individual is not politically trustworthy in terms of state ideology – was frequently the only explanation the individual was given by potential employers for not getting a job.

Jorge Luis, a champion sportsman, said that after saying the Cuban government didn’t finance sport during an interview on state television, he began to be progressively excluded from his sport and was fired from his job with the state. He was simply told he no longer met the requirements to work.

He said he was given 20 days to find another job, because otherwise the police said they would charge him with “dangerousness” for not working. He found it impossible to find another job, as everywhere he went potential employers told him he was a “counter-revolutionary”. Unable to support his family he decided to leave Cuba.

Those pushed out of work because of their views, have nowhere to challenge their dismissal. Most said Cuba’s only official trade union didn’t represent them and that they didn’t have the option to join an independent union. None interviewed had appealed their dismissal through the courts, as they considered them to be fully under the control of the government.

“Why would you hire a lawyer if the lawyer is from the same government?,” said a 31-year-old man who had tried to leave Cuba six times by boat and was then denied access to employment and harassed by the police.

Despite recent changes in Cuba’s migration laws, trying to leave the country by boat is still considered a crime. Those who leave the country are labeled as “deserters”, “traitors” and “counter-revolutionaries” – detained and excluded from access to state employment in the same way as others who peacefully exercise their right to freedom expression.

“The failure of the authorities to respect people’s human rights has had an impact far beyond those directly targeted for their activism and seeps into the everyday experiences and hopes of people from all walks of life.”

“If authorities in Cuba want to claim they are really committed to change, they must review all criminal laws that are inconsistent with international standards and end the discriminatory and wrongful dismissals and harassment of workers as a way to silence even the most subtle criticism. Until that is done, the country will continue to be a prison for their people’s minds,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

Full report here: Cuba: "Your mind is in prison" - Cuba's web of control over free expression and its chilling effect on everyday life

 https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/11/cuba-job-sector-a-tool-of-repression-as-perceived-critics-face-jobless-life/

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Wilman Villar Mendoza

 "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." - Josef Stalin

Wilman Villar Mendoza: May 30, 1980 - January 19, 2012
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on the small corner of Cuba and on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism.

In this fifth entry will focus on a Amnesty International prisoner of conscience who died on hunger strike protesting his unjust imprisonment in 2012.


Previous entries in this series where about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently. The first entry concerned Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a humble bricklayer turned courageous human rights defender who paid the ultimate price in 2010 for speaking truth to power. The second entry focused on Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, a Catholic lay activist, nonviolence icon, husband, father of three and the founder of a Cuban opposition movement that shook up the Castro regime with a petition drive demanding that human rights be respected and recognized in Cuba. This action and speaking truth to power led to his extrajudicial killing in 2012. The
third entry focused on one of the great crimes of the Castro regime that has been well documented by international human rights organizations and reported on ABC News Nightline that claimed the lives of 37 men, women, and children. They were trying to flee the despotism in Cuba to live in freedom and were extrajudicially executed. In the fourth focused on an act of state terrorism when two planes were shot down on a Saturday afternoon at 3:21 and 3:27 on February 24, 1996 over international airspace while engaged in a search and rescue flight for Cuban rafters killing four humanitarians. Their planes were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by a Cuban MiG-29 aircraft on the orders of Raul and Fidel Castro.


On Sunday, January 15, 2012 (on Martin Luther King Jr's birthday) a large group of the Ladies in White were brutally beaten up and detained as they marched from the Cobre to the hospital Juan Bruno Zayas calling for the release of Wilman Villar Mendoza and that his life be saved. Wilman has been on a hunger strike for over 50 days protesting his unjust imprisonment. Comparisons are being drawn between his plight and that of the late prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo.


Four days later he was dead. On January 19, 2012 two little girls lost their dad; a young wife her husband; and a mother her son. Wilman Villar Mendoza died after his kidneys and other organs failed. He died, the result of a prolonged hunger strike provoked by outrage over a profound injustice committed against him by the communist regime in Cuba. He was just 31 years old.


Wilman Villar Mendoza was arrested on November 14, 2011 during a violent crackdown by the political police on nonviolent Cuban democrats. Wilman and the others had engaged in a public protest in the town of Contramaestre in Santiago, Cuba on November 2, 2011

Police told him "he would be disappeared or face imprisonment on criminal charges stemming from an earlier arrest if he did not stop his protests and leave the dissident group."
 

Ten days later in a closed-door, one day sham trial on November 24 , where the judge "refused to accept testimony from his wife or other defense witnesses," Wilman was sentenced to four years in prison for disobedience, resisting arrest and contempt and was sent to Aguadores prison.

Outraged at the injustice committed against him Wilman launched a hunger strike on November 25, 2011 and refused to wear the uniform of a common prisoner. There was little press coverage or official protests regarding his plight until his death appeared imminent.

Ladies in White and other opposition activists marched and demonstrated on his behalf suffering brutal beatings and detentions but the international press remained silent. When confronting a brutal totalitarian dictatorship there is a very simple equation:

silence = violence = death.
International official protests and heightened press scrutiny on behalf of brutalized dissidents means less bloodshed. Silence means that Maritza Pelegrino Cabrera, Wilman's wife, is now a widow and her two young daughters ages 5 and 6 will not get to grow up with their dad.

On January 20, 2012, the Special Adviser at Amnesty International, Javier Zúñiga condemned the regime:"[t]he responsibility for Wilman Villar Mendoza’s death in custody lies squarely with the Cuban authorities, who summarily judged and jailed him for exercising his right to freedom of expression."

Five years later the human rights situation remains dire, but the untimely death of Wilman Villar Mendoza is not forgotten or the need for justice for him and his loved ones.