Thursday, December 31, 2015

SOS for Vladimir Morera Bacallao: Political prisoner held incomunicado on hunger strike

New Year's Eve in Castro's Cuba

Banner reads: Vladimir Morera Bacallao is dying "Freedom"
 On December 30, 2015 Pastor Mario Felix Lleonart was not allowed to give religious assistance to Vladimir Morera Bacallao while State Security carries out a campaign to discredit the political prisoner reports Cuban human rights defender Librado Linares. Nor can Bacallao's family be reached by phone.  On the same day five MCR-MOJD activists were violently arrested at the provincial hospital when trying to visit Vladimir Morera reported Librado Linares in a tweet adding that "Isolation helps to discredit." The news today from Librado on December 31, 2015 is dire. "SOS Vladimir Morera is mentally incoherent. The lack of glucose and B complex has affected the brain or the bad intention [ of state security].

Yesterday over the Cuban Reflection Movement's youtube account a video of a group of three activists placing a banner on a fence with the message "Vladimir Morera Bacallao is dying Freedom" was uploaded.

The plight of this activist has been denounced for weeks. In a December 17, 2015 open letter to President Obama his case was highlighted. On Christmas Eve this site outlined the circumstances of his plight and called for solidarity. Once again on December 28, 2015 this site outlined a course of three concrete actions to take to save his life:
1. Use the hashtag #SaveBacallao on social media and let others know about his plight. 

2. Call the hospital where he is currently being held [ Tel: +53-42-271234 +53-42-271256 +53-42-20105/81] and express your concern on his health status.

3. Ask your elected representatives to contact the Cuban government and have them express their concern on the plight of Vladimir Morera Bacallao directly. At the same time have them speak before their legislative body on the record regarding his plight.
Yesterday reproduced a more detailed post on his background and present predicament. Today I plead with you keep spreading the word. This is how New Years is celebrated in Cuba on the 57th anniversary of the nightmare known as the Cuban revolution.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Help save the life of a Cuban political prisoner by calling on Cuban government to free him now

The way to #SaveBacallao is to #FreeBacallao

81 days later and the United States government has appealed to the Cuban government to release Cuban political prisoner Vladimir Morera Bacallao. However now is not the time to stop the effort to raise awareness on the plight of the labor activist and human rights defender. Citizen activists of goodwill around the world need to intensify our efforts to obtain his release and save his life by doing three things. First, please reach out to your elected representatives and ask them to speak out on Vladimir Bacallao's behalf. Second, call the hospital he is currently at inquiring about his health and if the Cuban government will free him. Third, use the hashtag #SaveBacallao and let others know about his plight.

Work to save his life now so that if you fail and the question is asked: Where were you the day Vladimir Morera Bacallao died then at least you can say: "Trying to save his life." Canadian punk rock band I.H.A.D. put that question to music in September of 2010, just seven months after Orlando Zapata Tamayo died asking Canadian tourists: "Where were you the day Orlando Zapata Tamayo died?" Below is a video of the song from 2012.

On December 27, 2015 independent journalist Reinaldo Escobar of the publication 14yMedio published an excellent article on Vladimir Bacallao that was translated to English and is reproduced below that gives an overview of his case:
Cuban Activist On The Brink Of Death After A Prolonged Hunger Strike / 14ymedio, Reinaldo Escobar
A blacksmith by profession, he never imagined that after so many years of fabricating bars for his neighbors’ homes, he would end up locked behind prison bars. The activist Vladimir Morera Bacallao will mark 80 days on a hunger strike this Monday, 28 December, the Day of the Holy Innocents. That is, if the authorities don’t release him or he doesn’t starve to death first.
Right now, Morera Bacallao languishes in intermediate care at the Arnaldo Milian provincial hospital in the city of Santa Clara. He was taken there less than a week ago, after his family and colleagues in the Cuban Reflection Movement (MCR) carried out a campaign demanding that the prison authorities pay attention to his case.

MCR leader Librado Linares told 14ymedio that morera Bacallao now weighs less than 95 pounds, and within the next few hours his health could deteriorate “to the point of no return.” Saturday afternoon, Linares, a former prisoner of the 2003 Black Spring, said “he is so weak now that he doesn’t recognize anyone.”
Linares says that he is “knocking on the doors of the Bishop [of Santa Clara] and some of the province’s fraternal organizations,” to prevent the hunger striker’s death and to achieve his immediate release. The dissident is calling on the national and international community to do everything possible, “to not let him die.”
Morera Bacallo, was sentenced to four years in prison in case 404 of 2015, accused of the crime of “injuries.” The basis of this accusation, according to his family members who attended the trial, was a blow to the head received by Ivis Herrera, second secretary of the Communist Party in the municipality of Manicaragua, in the province of Villa Clara.
Several witnesses confirmed that the injury occurred when the official fell to the ground while sliding on melted asphalt that had been thrown down in front of and around Morera Bacallao’s house. The dumping of the material was part of the aggressions of the area’s “rapid response brigades” against the dissident, instigated by Ivis Herrera himself.
The events, classified as “public disorder,” happened on 19 April of this year, on the eve of the elections for the People’s Power. The opponent decided to put a sign on the door of his house where he proclaimed, “I vote for my freedom and not in some elections where I cannot elect my president.” The text unleashed the fury of the town’s government rulers.
Most of the working-age people in Manicaragua work in military factories or are active members of the armed forces. Thus, the residents of the area respond with a special intolerance and violence against any public display of differences with the government.
Rapid response brigades assaulted Morera Bacallao’s house in April, breaking windows, beating the inhabitants without distinction to sex or age, and throwing bricks. The operation included the spreading of melted asphalt, along with insults and abuse. In the early morning hours, when it seemed that everything was over, the uniformed Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior arrived and arrested the activist.
From the moment he fell into prison, the dissident declared himself on a hunger strike and only abandoned it in June, 40 days later, when he was hospitalized and they promised they would review his case. As the authorities did not fulfill their promise, on 9 October he resumed his hunger strike in the Guamajal prison hospital on the outskirts of Santa Clara. There he lost more than 88 pounds, according to Arsenio Lopez Roa, an inmate who provided the information.
Last Monday, the medical team informed the family that the striker had “vomited blood at least eight times, during the transfer from prison to the hospital.” The same source predicted that “at any moment he could experience digestive bleeding.”
In November 2013, Morera Bacallao was sentenced to eight years in prison for reasons very similar to today’s, after suffering an act of repudiation. He was released after one year, on 14 December 2014, after consecutive hunger strikes. Two months later, his name appeared on the list of the 53 prisoners released after talks between Barack Obama and Raul Castro; a list that was not initially made public at the time of their release.
Castro regime trolls over social media continue to slander the hunger striking former independent labor activist and current member of the Cuban Reflection Movement.  This type of libel was also used in campaigns against two Cuban prisoners of conscience: Orlando Zapata Tamayo who died on hunger strike on February 23, 2010 and Wilman Villar Mendoza who died on hunger strike on January 19, 2012. Following their deaths the campaigns slandering and libeling their name posthumously intensified as did the harassment and intimidation against their family members. People of goodwill need to remain vigilant.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Cuban political prisoner near death on hunger strike: Day 80

SOS for Cuban political prisoner

Vladimir Morera Bacallao on hunger strike in Cuba
Unjustly imprisoned and mistreated Vladimir Morera Bacallao was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison for writing on the wall of his home, “I vote for my freedom and not in elections where I cannot elect my president.” He has been on hunger strike since October 9th demanding his freedom and today marks 80 days and Vladimir's family is reporting that he does not recognize them and his eyes are fixed. 

On December 22, 2015 Radio República reported that Cuban political prisoner Vladimir Morera Bacallao had finally been transferred from Guamajal prison to "Arnaldo Milian" provincial hospital in the city of Santa Clara in serious condition. Vladimir's wife, Maribel Herrera reported to Diario de Cuba that "He is very weak and delicate, weighing 45 kilos, and is still on hunger strike, not eating anything, drinks little water and won't allow them to feed him intravenously.  

Family members have not been able to visit with Vladimir during long stretches of the hunger strike. This is a practice that has been carried out as punishment against other Cuban activists who have died on hunger strikes in Cuba in recent years.

Meanwhile Castro regime trolls over social media are engaged in slandering the dying former independent labor activist and current member of the Cuban Reflection Movement. 

Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012) and Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010)
 The Cuban dictatorship rejects transparent human rights monitoring by independent human rights organizations because it is engaged in the systematic violation of the human rights of Cubans on the island in order to maintain itself in power. Independent Cuban human rights organizations are labeled mercenary, their members common criminals and independent international human rights organizations are are also demonized and accused of bias by the regime's agents of influence on the far left.

The deaths of two Amnesty International prisoners of conscience: Orlando Zapata Tamayo in 2010 and Wilman Villar Mendoza 23 months later in 2012 provide context into how the Castro regime engages in campaigns of slander against political prisoners in order to minimize international outrage. This is what the Cuban state security service is now doing with Vladimir Morera Bacallao.

The debate over the body count of politically motivated killings by the dictatorship in Cuba varies widely with counts of 12,000 killed, 73,000 killed or even 100,000 extrajudicial killings since 1959. A full accounting needs to be carried by a truth commission in a post-Castro regime to arrive at the truth, but sadly the number continues to rise and under the Obama administration high profile opposition leaders have been added to the count.

Vladimir Morera Bacallao was one of the names on a list of 53 political prisoners that the Obama administration made public in January of 2015 following the December 17, 2014 announcement of a new US-Cuba policy. According to The New York Times, a cheer leader for this new policy, it "was seen as an important indicator of the Cuban government’s commitment to carrying out the agreement" with the United States. However, Morera Bacallao had been sent home on October 11, 2014,  months prior to the December 17th announcement following another lengthy hunger strike. Others among the 53 named by the Obama administration have also been re-arrested.

The Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski on Christmas Eve expressed "concern"for the plight of Vladimir Morera Bacallao over twitter. Rosa María Payá responded to him over twitter stating: "Justice and immediate release of all political prisoners should be conditions, not concerns."

Meanwhile in Cuba activists take to the streets in a campaign to raise awareness on the plight of
Vladimir Morera Bacallao led by Cuban Reflection Movement leader, Librado Linares Garcia.

The question activists are asking themselves of the international community was concretely expressed by Capitol Hill Cubans in the powerful blog entry: Who Cares About Vladimir Morera Bacallao?

What can you do to help save a life?

1. Use the hashtag #SaveBacallao on social media and let others know about his plight. 

2. Call the hospital where he is currently being held [ Tel: +53-42-271234 +53-42-271256 +53-42-20105/81] and express your concern on his health status.

3. Ask your elected representatives to contact the Cuban government and have them express their concern on the plight of Vladimir Morera Bacallao directly. At the same time have them speak before their legislative body on the record regarding his plight.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

George Orwell's Animal Farm gets a Cuban twist at the King Mango Strut

If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. - George Orwell

Amazing scene today at the King Mango Strut Parade in Coconut Grove where activists associated with the #TodosMarchamos (#WeAllMarch) campaign participated in this historic festival dedicated to satire and fun in Coconut Grove, Florida in its 34th edition.

The Cuban group joined the parade starting at 2pm making a satire of George Orwell's Animal Farm wearing masks,  carrying posters and dancing a conga with a live band.

Pigs Raul and Fidel's Animal Farm at King Mango Strut
The organizers of the event said that there objective was to "recontextualize George Orwell's fable within the present situation in Cuba, the re-establishment of relations with Washington DC, the increase in repression and the campaign #Todos Marchamos (We All March).

The activity was carried out by the organizing committee of #Todos Marchamos (We All March) in Miami and in the action the following artists and activists from the island took part: Danilo Maldonado, El Sexto, Lía Villares, Gorki Águila and Ailer González Mena.

"Animal farm Cuba" complete with a band of singing animals - Alex Harris
At the front of the Conga was Fidel Castro driving a truck and leading the march followed by President Obama trying to keep up on foot behind him saying "leading from behind."

Others wars animal masks, including pigs named Raul and Fidel.  Danilo Maldonado "El Sexto" carried two pigs named Raul and Fidel as piñatas on a long pole and at the end of the march the participants broke them open releasing chocolate gold coins and began to chant "Change will happen if you want it."

Also present in the parade action was Eduardo Prieto Blanco, brother of political prisoner Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco.

The protest was a party and in a free society the participants did not have to fear being the objects of an act of repudiation or government orchestrated assault. Unfortunately in Cuba today that is not the case.

We must remain vigilant for these activists when they return home to Cuba.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Remembering on Christmas Eve those in prison for acts of conscience: A Call to Action

"Continue to remember those in prison as if you were together with them in prison, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering."- Hebrews 13:3

Prisoners of conscience are observing Christmas Eve in terrible conditions in China, Cuba, Venezuela, Vietnam, and many other places around the world. It is impossible to list them all here but it is important to remember them. Here are a few that represent the many who remain unnamed.

Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo jailed since 2008 was tried on Christmas day in 2009

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo on Christmas day in Communist China six years ago today was being condemned in a show trial to eleven years prison. Two days prior he was able to make a final statement in which the nonviolent character of his struggle was made evident:
“I have no enemies and no hatred. None of the police who monitored, arrested, and interrogated me, none of the prosecutors who indicted me, and none of the judges who judged me are my enemies.” 
He is still jailed today and has been detained for seven years. He is being punished for co-authoring Charter 08, a proposal for political and legal reform in China. Campaigns are underway around the world raising attention on his plight and calling for his freedom. His family has been blocked from visiting him.

Vladimir Morera Bacallao on hunger strike and in intensive care
Despite the hype around U.S. - Cuba relations the human rights situation under the communist dictatorship of the Castro family remains bleak.  This Christmas finds several Cuban human rights defenders on hunger strike protesting their unjust incarceration and at least one who may not see the New Year. On December 17, 2015 the Cuban Democratic Directorate and the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance released an open letter to President Obama highlighting their concerns for the following imprisoned activists:
This December 10, 2015 – International Human Rights Day – more than 300 activists were arrested in Cuba. This continues a pattern of over 8,000 politically-motivated arbitrary detentions this year. Political prisoners continue to be unjustly jailed in Cuba. Some have responded to this injustice by declaring themselves on hunger strike leading to additional punishments by prison officials. Among these political prisoners, we are deeply concerned by the current plight of seven: Geovanys Izaguirre Hernandez and Laudelino Mendoza who have been imprisoned since November 6, 2015 for writing a sign that read, “We want change, and no more hunger;” Hugo Damian Prieto Blanco, who was detained on October 25, 2015 accused of charges of public disorder; Vladimir Morera Bacallao arrested and sentenced to four years in prison for writing on the wall of his home, “I vote for my freedom and not in elections where I cannot elect my president,” he has been on hunger strike since October 9th demanding his freedom; also, on hunger strikes since December 1, 2015, Felipe Martínez Companioni and Alexander Palacios Reyes, jailed for handing out human rights fliers; and Javier Jouz Varona since December 14, 2015 when he was imprisoned for carrying out opposition activities in the streets.
On December 22, 2015 Radio República reported that Cuban political prisoner Vladimir Morera Bacallao had been "urgently" transferred from Guamajal prison to "Arnaldo Milian" provincial hospital in the city of Santa Clara in serious condition and he was placed in intensive care.
Vladimir's wife, Maribel Herrera reported to Diario de Cuba that "He is very weak and delicate, weighing 45 kilos, and is still on hunger strike, not eating anything, drinks little water and won't allow them to feed him intravenously.
Human rights activist Angel Moya reported over social media that 40 activists, members of the Ladies in White, were arrested on December 22, 2015 by the political police and state security agents to prevent them holding a Christmas party and handing out toys to needy children.

Nonviolent opposition activist and prisoner of conscience  Leopoldo López
Despite the popular rejection of the Maduro regime on December 6, 2015 in Venezuela's elections to the National Assembly the plight of prisoners of conscience in that troubled South American country remains worrisome with reports that there are currently 75 behind bars. The democratic opposition has had a message of reconciliation and a call for an amnesty for political prisoners following their December 6, 2015 victory.  Meanwhile Nicolas Maduro has rejected the call and is trying to carry out a Christmas Coup against the newly elected National Assembly that has the support of a vast majority of Venezuelans. 

Leopoldo Lopez, the emblematic national figure who surrendered to the Maduro regime before a gathering of tens of thousands of his supporters on February 18, 2014 to a process that has been neither transparent or fair demonstrates with his continued imprisonment the dictatorial nature of the current regime. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International on the politicized verdict in the show trial on September 10, 2015 said

“The charges against Leopoldo López were never adequately substantiated and the prison sentence against him is clearly politically motivated. His only ‘crime’ was being leader of an opposition party in Venezuela.”

Prisoner of conscience Tran Thi Thuy jailed since 2010
In Vietnam there are approximately a 135 political prisoners according to a July 2015 report by Human Rights Watch.  Amnesty International has an urgent action underway for Tran Thi Thuy and has recognized her as a prisoner of conscience providing her background and the circumstances surrounding the 2010 arrest:
Tran Thi Thuy is a trader, Hoa Hao Buddhist and land rights activist. She was arrested in August 2010 and tried with six other land rights activists by BếnTre Provincial People’s Court on 30 May 2011. She was sentenced to eight years’ imprisonment under Article 79 of the Penal Code for “activities aimed at overthrowing” the state, and five years’ house arrest on release. According to the indictment, all the activists accused of having joined or been associated with Viet Tan, an overseas-based group peacefully campaigning for democracy in Viet Nam. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has stated that the detention of the seven activists including Tran Thi Thuy is arbitrary and should be remedied by their release and compensation. Tran Thi Thuy is currently detained in An Phước Detention Centre, Bình Dương province, which is approximately 900 km from where her family lives; it takes them three days to get there.
 Unfortunately, Vietnamese prison officials are using the denial of medical care as a weapon to coerce a confession from the land rights activist:
Tran Thi Thuy first became ill around April 2015 while detained in a facility at Long Khánh town in Ðồng Nai Province. A prison doctor diagnosed a tumour on her uterus, but she was not provided with treatment. A prison officer told her to admit her crimes or “die in prison”. She has difficulty walking, needing a crutch or help. Her family have provided her with traditional medicine. She also has high blood pressure for which she takes medication. Tran Thi Thuy is in severe physical pain and has told her family that she has felt on the verge of death at several points in recent months. The denial of medical treatment in these circumstances could amount to torture and therefore a violation of the Convention against Torture, which came into force in Viet Nam in February after ratification last year. 
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. observed in his April 1963 "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" addressed to fellow clergy counseling patience and tolerance with existing racial injustices in the United States that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." This is the bumper sticker quote most are familiar with, but Reverend King continued in the letter explaining, "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny."

A half century later and the wisdom of his words are becoming manifest in a world where compromises made with totalitarian regimes, such as China, for the sake of the financial gain of a few have resulted in a planet that is more polluted and where human rights and freedom have been in decline for nearly twenty years.

People of good will have a responsibility to do what they can. Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in an address to the European Parliament on December 17, 2002 explained that "[t]he cause of human rights is a single cause, just as the people of the world are a single people. The talk today is of globalization, but we must state that unless there is global solidarity, not only human rights but also the right to remain human will be jeopardized." Please join me in speaking up for these and other political prisoners and remember, that although helping them in a utilitarian sense we also help ourselves, that more importantly we must do this because it is the right thing to do. The great Czech dissident Václav Havel explained back in 1990 that "[t]he salvation of this human world lies nowhere else than in the human heart, in the human power to reflect, in human meekness and human responsibility." It begins with you. Will you do your part?

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Venezuela Update: Maduro's Christmas Coup versus The Democratic Opposition's Call for an Amnesty

"We knew that they were elections in a dictatorship; that is why we fought in the streets and tables. Today, it is the same dictatorship, defeated politically and electorally." - María Corina Machado, Venezuelan opposition leader over twitter on December 22, 2015

Maria Corina Machado, Leopoldo López Mendoza, on February 18, 2014

Venezuela is not a democracy but a country where contested elections are held within an anti-democratic regime. This has meant that the opposition had had to take to the street to ensure that the vote be respected on and following December 6, 2015. There are prisoners of conscience today in Venezuela and the democratic opposition is demanding their release in an amnesty before Christmas which Maduro has rejected. 

Furthermore the Maduro regime has packed the Supreme Court and is seeking to use this court to undo the results of the National Assembly elections by challenging the results in 22 races. By denying the opposition its super majority it opens the path to gutting the National Assembly's powers replacing it with a newly created and un-elected communal congress. This is generating a political crisis in Venezuela. 

However the opposition understands that this is a political struggle with a dictatorship and is waging a nonviolent struggle to regain the rule of law and the respect for democratic practices.
Their message is a transparent and open challenge to the continuing irregularities of Nicolas Maduro and his regime. Freddy Guevara of the opposition party, Voluntad Popular over twitter declared: "Let it be clear: We defended the December 6th vote and didn't allow one deputy to be stolen. Now they are less able to do it. Strength and faith!"
Prisoner of conscience Leopoldo López Mendoza from his prison cell got the following message out: "If Maduro and the rest of the powers kidnapped by a corrupt elite torpedo change then we must remove them." Leopoldo is a prisoner of conscience who is falsely imprisoned because of his massive popularity and nonviolent defiance of the Maduro regime. 

The democratic opposition has had a message of reconciliation and a call for an amnesty for political prisoners following their December 6, 2015 victory while Nicolas Maduro has rejected call and is trying to carry out a Christmas Coup against the newly elected National Assembly that has the support of a vast majority of Venezuelans. 

For more information on developments in Venezuela:

The anti-democratic maneuvers of Venezuela’s leaders / The Washington Post 

U.S. says $1 billion linked to Venezuelan energy corruption scheme / Reuters

Venezuela-Argentina spat over human rights comments / BBC

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and The New York Times: A Case Study

"We won't engage in pacts behind the people's back or a place in arrangements where they're excluded" - Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, quoted by Rosa Maria over twitter on December 16

Ignored by The New York Times for 21 years of his activism

Three years, five months, and one day ago on July 22, 2012 Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were killed under suspicious circumstances that point to a state security operation carried out by agents of the Castro regime.

In a previous post outlined the long romance between The New York Times and the Castro regime that began in 1957. In this one it is worth looking at the coverage given to one of Cuba's most important dissident leaders. Based on a search of The New York Times database the Grey Lady began reporting on Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas on May 11, 2002 at what amounted to a total of 13 stories. Four of these stories followed his untimely death.

13 years, 8 months, 4 days before Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's first mention in The New York Times he founded the Christian Liberation Movement on September 8, 1988, in a country where independent organizations were and continue to be outlawed by the dictatorship, and had it become a national movement despite all the obstacles it faced. 

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas announced his intention to run for office in 1992 as an independent candidate to the rubber stamp National Assembly of People's Power exercising his constitutional right run for office. Two days prior to the meeting to accept applications he is publicly arrested at home and publicly paraded through the neighborhood to intimidate his neighbors. Communist party members threaten him that "blood will flow if he presents [his candidacy] at the meeting." In the end the Communist party members held a meeting under guard with only a few of their followers. The inability of the Cuban regime to respect its own laws as established in the Constitution was dramatically exposed. The New York Times did not see this as news fit to print.
On October 10, 1995
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas as one of the organizers of the Cuban Council that sought to unify the opposition around a nonviolent program of national reconciliation made an official request to the Cuban authorities to hold a national dialogue on the future of Cuba on February 24, 1996. The Castro regime's response was a massive crackdown on the days leading up to February 24 and the shoot down of two civilian planes on that day over international airspace. This netted a few lines in an article focused on Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s visit to Cuba to advance the normalization of relations on February 19, 1996. Oswaldo and the other dissidents, including those detained were not mentioned.
Despite the crackdown and the aftermath of the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas carried on and in 1997 collected signatures and presented them to run for a seat in the National Assembly. The Election Commission refused to accept his candidacy.  Oswaldo responded by declaring that the election law did not respect the sovereignty of the people, that it was unconstitutional and demanded that it be scrapped in favor of a democratic election law. The regime's response was to slander Oswaldo Payá in the official media.
The New York Times did not see this as news fit to print.
On January 22, 1998 the Christian Liberation Movement makes public the Varela Project and begins gathering signatures for a referendum to reform Cuban laws and bring it in line with the respect of fundamental human rights using a clause in Cuban law that citizen's can propose laws via a petition with 10,000 signatures. 
The New York Times did not see this as news fit to print.

In 1999 Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas drafts the declaration "All United" that seeks to carry out the goals that had already been proposed by the Cuban Council back in 1995 and on this occasion despite repression and harassment he is successful and the democratic opposition is able to hold its first national assembly.
The New York Times did not see this as news fit to print.

Oswaldo is mentioned for the first time in the pages of the Grey Lady on May 10, 2002 in the article "In Time for Carter's Visit, Cubans Petition Government" when it announced a historic moment in the space of six paragraphs:
"Two days before a historic visit to Cuba by the former President Jimmy Carter, human rights activists today delivered an extraordinary challenge to the Communist government of President Fidel Castro in the form of petitions signed by more than 11,000 people seeking greater freedom.
The petition drive, known as the Varela Project, calls for a referendum under the terms of the Cuban Constitution on whether there should be more freedom of expression, an amnesty for political prisoners and a chance for ordinary citizens to own small businesses.
The signed petitions were delivered this morning to the National Assembly, after supporters painstakingly verified each signature, in the most significant peaceful effort to bring reform to Cuba in four decades.
''All of these Cubans, who with great courage and sacrifice have signed Project Varela, are the social vanguard for peaceful change in Cuba,'' said Oswaldo Paya, who led the drive. He said changes in the rights of Cubans could only be achieved peacefully.
The delivery of the petitions seemed timed to coincide with the visit by Mr. Carter, who made human rights a leading issue of his presidency. Not everyone in the dissident community supported the move. Some had rejected the petitions because the proposed referendum would be carried out by a political system they consider illegitimate.
President Castro made no mention of the drive during a speech tonight addressing another issue that arose in advance of Mr. Carter's visit."
Other than referring to the Cuban dictator as president those six paragraphs provide a decent report on what happened. The trouble that it did not end there. The New York Times linked these six paragraphs to another ten paragraphs in the same story beginning with "Mr. Castro denounced as 'sinister lies' the State Department's accusation this week that his government was developing germ warfare capabilities and sharing them with rogue nations." Why did The New York Times link a citizen initiative to charges of germ warfare by the State Department and contested by the Castro regime in the same article?

This was followed up by an article on October 13, 2002 titled "Cuba Can't Ignore a Dissident It Calls Insignificant" which again focused on President Jimmy Carter's trip to the island and public support for the initiative which highlighted the regime's own signature drive without explaining its coercive nature and ended with pressing the Cuban opposition leader on acknowledging that not all foreign visitors had embraced the Project Varela. Nevertheless Oswaldo Paya was able to outline the stakes:
''Cuba has a great threat of violence, and its future depends on how change is made,'' he said. ''What Fidel Castro proposes are two very clear things: that his government is absolute until he dies and that the group in power with him get richer and prepare to be the new oligarchy. It is urgent for us that the changes come now. The only possible way out of that is with a peaceful civic movement.''
 On October 24, 2002 in a one paragraph World Brief, The New York Times reported that the European Parliament had awarded the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought to Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas.  On January 18, 2003 in an article titled "Cuban Dissident Ends Tour Hopeful of Democratic Reform" reported the following:
"Mr. Paya, who is also the founder of the Christian Liberation Movement, began his trip last month when Havana allowed him to travel outside Cuba to receive the European Union's top human rights prize. He has since met with Pope John Paul II and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell."
No mention was made that the group that one of the groups that hosted Oswaldo Payá's visit to Miami was the Cuban Democratic Directorate which fully supported the Varela Project although having what critics describe as a "hard line" supporting economic sanctions against the Castro regime. Nor did The New York Times report how the president of the organization, Javier De Cespedes traveled to Cuba in May of 2001 and signed the Varela Project in Oswaldo's home.  

The New York Times reporting on the Black Cuban Spring in March of 2003 made mention of the opposition leader and quoted him but also cast a more sinister light on the opposition using the Castro regime's talking points justifying the crackdown comparing the round up of 80 opposition activists with the round ups following the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Equating a nonviolent petition drive which challenges the system within its own "legality" has no comparison to an act of terrorism, but The New York Times following the Castro playbook did just that.
"Cuban officials have compared their roundup of dissidents to the United States' mass arrests after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Mr. Payá said such accusations were part of the government's relentless defamation campaign against him.
''That mocks people's intelligence,'' he said. ''We are claiming our rights.''
But the threat felt by the Cuban government is real, diplomats and political analysts said, because the project relies on Cuba's own system to bring about change."
Two months later on May 20, 2003 found the opposition leader denouncing the Castro regime's claim that the United States was going to invade Cuba to justify its repression with The New York Times reporting on the pro-Castro campaign in the same article.

The next time that The New York Times mentioned Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas was in a June 29, 2004 David Brooks column titled "Kerry's Cruel Realism" in which the author took then presidential candidate John Kerry to task for calling the Varela Project. Kerry ''counterproductive." The next mention of Oswaldo Payá in in the pages of The New York Times would be the report of his death on July 23, 2012 by Damien Cave.

Although The New York Times chose not to report on the Cuban dissident leaders activities following the 2003 the crackdown and his untimely death in 2012 it is worth highlighting some of the actions he carried out during those nine years that may also explain the Grey Lady's silence.

Seven months after the massive crackdown on October 3, 2003 Oswaldo Payá personally delivers another 14,000 signatures for the Varela Project demanding a referendum.

On December 12, 2003 Oswaldo Payá launched a national dialogue that in the end involved over 12,000 Cubans in 3,000 discussion groups in and out of Cuba to obtain a consensus on how to transition from the current system to a democratic one via concrete, nonviolent and legal means while also discussing the challenges that would be faced by a transitional government in governing this led in 2005 to the document: "All Cubans Program" and a pledge to continue the dialogue.
On December 18, 2007 he launched the Heredia Project which demanded that the right of Cubans to enter and exit their homeland be recognized and respected, a right systematically denied them by the Cuban regime.
On July 13, 2011 he announced a petition drive called "The People's Path" that once again generated a broad based coalition of support in the island and set out a path for change. The campaign is still underway.
In the final months before his untimely death on July 22, 2012, Oswaldo Payá, was denouncing the fraudulent change taking place in Cuba as the underlying nature of the regime remained unchanged while cosmetic efforts were made to improve its international image.

The articles following his death were unfortunately too predictable and giving the benefit of the doubt to the dictatorship that killed him while at the same time seeking to sow discord in the democratic opposition while trying to put the best face on the Obama administration's failed Cuba policy.

Fake Change in Cuba
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas speaking on behalf of the Christian Liberation Movement in Havana on March 30, 2012, just four months prior to his untimely death,  bravely denounced the fraudulent change that was then taking shape and that is being supported by The New York Times:

Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression. The Diaspora does not have to "assume attitudes and policies in entering the social activity of the island." The Diaspora is a Diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to which the regime denied rights as it denies them to all Cubans. It is not in that part of oppression, without rights, and transparency that the Diaspora has to be inserted, that would be part of a fraudulent change. 
What real change would look like
Oswaldo Payá in the same statement outlined that authentic change was contingent upon a principled path of action not economic determinism:
The gradual approach only makes sense if there are transparent prospects of freedom and rights. We Cubans have a right to our rights. Why not rights? It is time. That is the peaceful change that we promote and claim. Changes that signifies freedom, reconciliation, political pluralism and free elections. Then the Diaspora will cease being a Diaspora, because all Cubans will have rights in their own free and sovereign country. That is why we fight.
 The New York Times has had a romance since 1957 with a murderous thug who came to power through a struggle that combined terrorism, guerrilla warfare, and an awful lot of lies, but never became enamored of a democrat who spoke truth to power, denounced terrorism and was a consistent human rights champion. Shame on The New York Times.

The New York Times and the Castro brothers: A long romance

 "The leader of pro-Castro opinion in the United States is Herbert L. Matthews , a member of the editorial staff of the New York Times. He did more than any other single man to bring Fidel Castro to power." - William F. Buckley Jr.,  Athwart History: Half a Century of Polemics, Animadversions, and Illuminations

“I got my job through the New York Times.”
The New York Times is at it again, advocating on its editorial page for the foreign policy goals of the Castro regime. On December 21, 2015 it was calling for the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act. This echoed not only the sentiments of Raul Castro but his ideological ally in Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega who has precipitated the current crisis in Central America with Cuban refugees. It is a coordinated media campaign with The New York Times leading the charge and when it comes to the Castro regime the Grey Lady has been at it for 57 years to the detriment of free Cubans and U.S. national interests. The Cuban Adjustment Act is a humanitarian law that if repealed will not end the exodus of Cubans fleeing the Castro nightmare, and the dictatorship continues to set Cuba apart from other countries in the hemisphere justifying the policy.

Marie Sanz is a senior correspondent with the Agence France Presse (AFP),  who has authored a paper "The Persistent Advocate: The New York Times' Editorials and the Normalization of U.S. Ties with Cuba" that although filled with "conventional main stream elite" opinion demonstrated the agenda of The New York Times first to promote Fidel Castro's rise to power in the 1950s, secondly to defend the Castro regime from efforts to overthrow it in the early 1960s, and a steadfast advocate for normalizing relations with the dictatorship through to the present day.

The New York Times has had a long time bias in favor of dictatorships and making glaring omissions that predate Cuba. The paper has had reporters such as Walter Duranty who ignored a genocide in Ukraine in the 1930s while providing a sympathetic portrayal of the Soviet Union under Josef Stalin.

Beginning in 1957 Herbert Matthews built up Fidel Castro's image both inside and outside of Cuba with a series of misleading articles in The New York Times. In July of 1959 Matthews reported: "[t]his is not a Communist Revolution in any sense of the term. Fidel Castro is not only not a Communist, he is decidedly anti-Communist." Anthony De Palma has written a book on Herbert Matthews titled, "The Man Who Invented Fidel" and describes how his heroic portrayal of Fidel Castro influenced the fall of the Batista dictatorship and the consolidation of the future dictator as a national figure.
William F. Buckley Jr. in an article in the March 1961 issue of The American Legion magazine outlined the impact of Mr. Matthews on the imposition of communism in Cuba and placed it in a larger context: 
"The leader of pro-Castro opinion in the United States is Herbert L. Matthews , a member of the editorial staff of the New York Times. He did more than any other single man to bring Fidel Castro to power. It could be said - with a little license - that Matthews was to Castro what Owen Lattimore was to Red China, and that the New York Times was Matthews's Institute of Pacific Relations: stressing this important difference, that no one has publicly developed against Matthews anything like the evidence subsequently turned up against Lattimore tending to show, in the words of a Senate investigating committee, that Lattimore was 'a conscious, articulate instrument of the Soviet conspiracy.'"
Marie Sanz in her paper describes the unprecedented series of editorials written by Ernesto Londoño but does not address the factual inaccuracies in his work. For example in his August 24, 2015 opinion piece The New York Times journalist presented a skewed vision of the opposition.

Londoño quotes some of the dissidents who met with Secretary Kerry at an informal cocktail following the official event to which they were not invited.  He fails to mention the presence of Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, who is a former prisoner of conscience who has been the subject of an hour long documentary "Oscar's Cuba" and 2007 Medal of Freedom Recipient. U2's Bono also gave a shout out to Dr. Biscet during their 2011 tour. This is a high profile and internationally recognized pro-democracy activist but he supports U.S. sanctions on the Castro regime and over twitter the day after meeting Secretary Kerry called the normalization of relations a violation of law:
Diplomatic links between USA and Cuba violates Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act of 1996 (Helms-Burton): Title II, Section 201(13-14); 202; 203; 204; ; 205 and 206.
Is this not newsworthy? Or the fact that on August 24, 2015 state security (G2) detained Oscar Elías Biscet and released him 20 km from his home in order to prevent him giving the presentation: Why is it that U.S. - Cuba relations violate the Libertad Act?

Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet
Even among those The New York Times reporter chooses to quote he fails to provide context. For example, he quotes Yoani Sanchez and 14 y Medio but fails to mention how she took him to task on December 6, 2014 for his editorials in The New York Times describing them as "really pitiful."  Miriam Celaya, raised a question in the same article that many Cubans who read his editorials asked themselves:
What is going on with these editorials? They are still giving prominence to a distorted, biased view, composed of half-truths and lies about what the Cuban reality is. They are still giving prominence to what a government says, and Cuba is not a government. Cuba's government today is a small group of old men, and when I say "old" it's because of their way of thinking, of individuals who have remained anchored in discourse rooted in a cold war and belligerence. The Cuban people are not represented in that government.
Both Yoani Sanchez and Miriam Celaya are Cuban dissidents who are advocates of lifting sanctions but even they have publicly questioned the work of Mr. Londoño because it does not reflect the reality in Cuba.

Finally, in the Cuban diaspora there are five Cuban American congressman and three Cuban American U.S. Senators currently in office and all of them support maintaining the embargo on Cuba and have been sharply critical of the Obama administration's Cuba policy.  

Why such sharp criticism? Because the policy has marginalized the democratic opposition while raising up narrow economic interests at the expense of the freedom of the Cuban people; it has led to a worsening human rights situation in Cuba; and the extrajudicial killings of prominent opposition leaders who were viewed as a threat by the regime because they could oversee a democratic transition. On the international front the Obama administration's policies will further endanger democracy in Latin America and U.S. national security

Inside of Cuba, a large number of opposition leaders support maintaining sanctions on the dictatorship. Unlike the anti-embargo lobby fair minded democrats recognize that there is a legitimate difference of opinion on this topic, but not on the underlying nature of the dictatorship and the need for real change. This is something that Mr. Londoño does not reflect in his reporting.
The New York Times editorial board on November 30, 2015  was at it again providing advice to the dictatorship in Cuba on how to prolong its existence this time by achieving its long term political goal of lifting the embargo through partnering with a technology firm to overwhelm congressional opposition:
"Partnering with Google, which has enormous lobbying clout in Washington, could advance Havana’s goal of building enough political support in Congress to repeal the embargo and would make it harder for a future president to dial back the restoration of diplomatic ties that Mr. Obama set in motion last year."
 The New York Times omits and distorts key facts such as the circumstances surrounding Cuba plugging into the global cable network in 2013 enabling high-speed connections that have not reached the average Cuban. First it was President Obama who on April 13, 2009 directed the Secretaries of State, Treasury, and Commerce to take the needed steps to:
  • Authorize U.S. telecommunications network providers to enter into agreements to establish fiber-optic cable and satellite telecommunications facilities linking the United States and Cuba.
  • License U.S. telecommunications service providers to enter into roaming service agreements with Cuba’s telecommunications service providers.
  • License U.S. satellite radio and satellite television service providers to engage in transactions necessary to provide services to customers in Cuba.
  • License persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction to activate and pay U.S. and third-country service providers for telecommunications, satellite radio and satellite television services provided to individuals in Cuba.
  • Authorize the donation of certain consumer telecommunication devices without a license.
Despite this unilateral liberalization by the Obama administration, it was the Castro regime that showed no interest in a fiber-optic cable linking the United States and Cuba from Key West in 2009 not the Cuban embargo. Instead the Cuban dictatorship went with a fiber-optic cable linking Cuba and Venezuela that required a much longer distance of cable to link the two countries. This was completed in 2013, but high speed internet access has not reached the average Cuban in 2015.
 The New York Times has been defending the interests of the Castro regime for 57 years on its Editorial pages.

Politically motivated extrajudicial killings by State Security
 At the same time it has remained silent before the critiques of the democratic opposition in the island.  For example, Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas speaking on behalf of the Christian Liberation Movement in Havana on March 30, 2012 bravely denounced the fraudulent change that was then taking shape and that is being carried out today with the Obama administration's Cuba policy and The New York Times active support:
Our Movement denounces the regime's attempt to impose a fraudulent change, i.e. change without rights and the inclusion of many interests in this change that sidesteps democracy and the sovereignty of the people of Cuba. The attempt to link the Diaspora in this fraudulent change is to make victims participate in their own oppression. The Diaspora does not have to "assume attitudes and policies in entering the social activity of the island." The Diaspora is a Diaspora because they are Cuban exiles to which the regime denied rights as it denies them to all Cubans. It is not in that part of oppression, without rights, and transparency that the Diaspora has to be inserted, that would be part of a fraudulent change.
 The escalating violence and repression by the Castro regime throughout this normalization process has been omitted by The New York Times because it does not fit their narrative. Rising levels of violence against  nonviolent activists and the suspicious deaths of human rights defenders: Orlando Zapata Tamayo (February 23, 2010), Daisy Talavera de las Mercedes Lopez (January 31, 2011) , Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (May 8, 2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (October 14, 2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (January 19, 2012), Sergio Diaz Larrastegui (April 19, 2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (July 22, 2012) and  Harold Cepero Escalante (July 22, 2012). Both Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá each had the international recognition and ability to head an authentic democratic transition in Cuba. Oswaldo Payá had forced the dictatorship to change the constitution in 2002 because of Project Varela, a citizen initiative demanding legal reforms within the existing system, and Laura  Pollán through constant street demonstrations achieved the freedom of scores of Cuban prisoners of conscience. It is important to remember that the deaths of these high profile human rights defenders happened on President Obama's watch as he loosened sanctions in a series of unilateral concessions that began in 2009. To understand what is really going on in Cuba one should read the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal or The Washington Post.

National Review early on had a clearer understanding on the nature of the Castro regime and the role of The New York Times in bringing the communist dictator to power in Cuba. This is why they had a cartoon of Fidel Castro with the caption “I got my job through the New York Times.” This is a decades long romance that has been at the expense of free Cubans.