Cuba, Burma and Obama / Antonio Rodiles

Martin Luther King Jr.: This “wait” has almost always meant “never.”*

Antonio Rodiles, 1 February 2016 — More than a year after the announcement of the restoration of relations between the United States government and the Havana regime, the direction that the political and economic landscape of our island will take remains uncertain.

The administration of President Barack Obama has outlined and is delivering a broad agenda full of concessions to the regime without asking for or receiving anything in return, either for the United States or for the Cuban people.

It is important to note that the violation of the freedoms and political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights of Cubans is provided for in the existing judicial and legal system, which limits, by law, the implementation of any measure that could work to our favor.

The United States government has validated the Castro regime as a political actor, and expects that internal and external sectors, including the opposition, accept this premise and develop strategies based on it. continue reading

The agenda shows a certain logic and points in common with that established with Burma, although the Cuban regime hasn’t shown a willingness to take even the first steps. It is important to point out that the intentions and scope, particularly in the international arena, of the two dictatorships have been very distinct, as have the environments in which they have developed.

One of the elements that makes the Cuban case unique is the existence of an exile only 90 miles away, with significant human, political and financial capital, which the regime looks on with profound fear. It is no wonder that they have focused in recent years not only on trying to feed off of this exile, but also on seeking agents and spaces of influence to try to control it or at least to link themselves to it. There is no political or social dynamic in the island’s present or future that could effectively ignore the role of the exile.

In line with the Burmese case, some propose elections in Cuba as one possible path to democracy, even within the ironclad totalitarian environment. Endorsing an electoral process within this scenario would end up legitimating the regime and its successors, at least in the medium term, and would also leave in their hands all the economic power and networks of influence for a new political moment. Accrediting neo-Castroism is the path diametrically opposed to the creation of the Rule of Law.

The possible visit of President Obama to our island seems to be presented in terms similar to his first trip to Burma. In that case, the president met with the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who on many occasions has been criticized for showing hesitancy in the face of human rights violations. He also met briefly with other representatives of civil society. The visit took place under strong criticism from opponents such as the former political prisoner Aung Din, who called it an act of legitimation of the ruling regime.

There is strong concern that a trip to Cuba by the United States president will be another boost to neo-Castroism. While the president has publically stated that he wants to meet with different sectors of Cuban society, we get the impression that the opposition, above all those who don’t share the current administration’s agenda, could be discounted as has happened in other cases.

Including the self-employed, intellectuals and other actors who remain under the full control of the regime within the definition of civil society tries, and in many cases succeeds, in diluting and diminishing clear and direct discourse about the daily excesses and abuses on the island.

We have heard with great insistence the fallacious argument that the opposition is far removed from the people and their problems. This assertion shows a lack of information and an ignorance of the nature and behavior of totalitarian regimes.

The opposition is a portion of the people, already fed up, who dare to openly and directly point to the regime as the main axis of our problems, and demand our basic rights despite the high cost this implies. To demand the exercise of our rights constitutes the maximum commitment of any opposition movement against a despotic and corrupt dictatorship like that embedded in our country for almost 60 years now.

To admit the legitimacy of the Castro regime implies consent to its crimes and violations, past and present. To accept that neo-Castroism is a part of the future of our nation deeply burdens and condemns us in advance. Those who propose a supposed reconciliation, in which truth, justice and compensation for victims are not contemplated as fundamental elements, are mistaken.

The White House has in its hands to change the direction to a process that doesn’t enjoy the respect and support of broad groups of Cubans, above all those who have paid a high cost for openly confronting such a despotic regime. To insist on an agenda where principles and truth are absent, is to condemn it to failure.

President Obama’s visit, despite the softening of the initial euphoria and expectations, it could bring more legitimacy to the regime and more confusion and bewilderment to Cubans. As on other occasions, all the momentum will end up fading if it is not conditioned on the dictatorship taking concrete steps to dismantle totalitarianism.

The unfavorable impressions of many Cubans left by the visits of Pope Francis and Secretary of State John Kerry are very fresh in our memories. In both cases it was the regime that reaped the greatest dividends, comfortably settled in its intransigence and violence.

Three basic steps that could give a context to the visit, as proposed by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (ForoDyL) are:

– Immediately cease the repression against every Cuban who defends their fundamental rights and freedoms. Amnesty for political prisoners or prisoners confined for acts with political connotations.

– Ratification and monitoring of the implementation of the United Nations Covenants on Human Rights.

– Formal meeting with a representation of the Cuban opposition.

We who demand and defend our rights and freedoms and who, for more than nine months, have gone out into public spaces to exercise them under the campaign #TodosMarchamos (We All March), know well the repressive face of the regime. Despite the costs involved we continue in an effort that we consider vital in this struggle.

In similar circumstances and facing similar challenges and dilemmas, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. declared:

“On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”**

*Martin Luther King, Jr. Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963

** Martin Luther King, Jr. A Proper Sense of Priorities. A speech delivered in Washington D.C. on February 6, 1968, on American involvement in the war in Vietnam.

Antonio Rodiles: The Brutality Will Never Conquer Us

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My specialty is physics and mathematics but my obsession is the freedom of the human being.
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Thanks to all my brothers and sisters for your solidarity. Let us raise our voices, ENOUGH BRUTALITY AND VIOLENCE, Cuba deserves another reality
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How many Cubans suffer these outrages and abuses remaining silent? ENOUGH Cuba HAS to change NOW. We all march.
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The more violence [they throw at us], the more strength [we have] to fight for a Cuba without a dictatorship. The brutality will never conquer us. We all march strong and confident.

#TodosMarchamos, We All March, or Fear of Freedom / Cubanet, Antonio Rodiles

antonio cuba

cubanet square logoCubanet, Antonio Rodiles, Havana, 3 June 2015 – Right from the year 1959, Fidel Castro made it very clear that public spaces were only for “Revolutionaries.” To achieve this objective he converted every public act in a harangue to intimidate the citizenry. Very quickly Cubans saw that the saber-rattling was converted into actions and mobs that could demolish them and their loved ones. Terror was implanted, the “Revolution” imposed.

Fifty-six years later, totalitarianism seeks to maintain its power with the tool it knows best, violence. Reactivating the panic genes that put you in a straightjacket is the regime’s priority.

Can Cuba change if we continue to sustain the memory of fear? Can Cuba change if we accept the terms of some decrepit old men and their followers?

It is not about a dilemma between a supposedly peaceful change and a violent one, as some want to show. Cuba will change if we feel the determination to make it so, if we push a genuine desire to end the nonsense and the stupidity. continue reading

For eight Sundays, the regime has brutally repressed a group of opponents who, together with the Ladies in White, demand the release of the political prisoners. Two points are intolerable for the dictatorship: that we demand the inmates be released, and that we exercise our right to demonstrate publicly and peacefully.

However, what has been unexpected is the ability to resist that we have demonstrated in the face of the abuses and the impunity of the repressive forces. Nearly a hundred activists, we continue to attend despite the violence they impose on us. It is hard, but our rights are worth it. We don’t know how many more Sundays of abuse and outrages await us, but we are confident that we will win freedom.

Last week we asked some friends to support us, because we need help to sustain this demand in the face of the silence of the international community. Quickly they promoted the Twitter hashtag #Todoas Marchamos (We All March). A “twittazo” – Twitter protest – against repression was organized, in support of the Sunday marches. And the result could not be better. Thousands of Tweets flooded the Internet. Seeing them was a balm after so much abuse.

Next Sunday we will be back on the street along with the Ladies in White, those humble women, laden with virtues and defects, but who have persevered like few others, and to whom we will be grateful for the Cuba of the future.

Hopefully many will join. Off the Island, let all those Cubans who yearn for a change send their Tweets, or gather in public spaces to show that Cuba is hurting. Within Cuba, let the rest of the opposition understand that the street is a space belonging to everyone, and that the blows hurt, but more painful for us is the indifference.

If #TodosMarchamas – If we all march – on Sunday, the fear and the disctatorship are finished. Let’s do it.

Alarming Repression Against the Ladies in White in Cuba / Forum for Rights and Freedoms

Cuba_031-300x168The repression against the Ladies in White, opposition activists and human rights defenders in Cuba, that we have seen during the last couple of weeks is alarming. The increase of violence from the authorities has come as a result from the exercise of the right to public protests and from the public exposure of the faces of political prisoners. Beatings, physical abuse and various types of torture have become routine. In only a few weeks, the numbers of arrests have skyrocketed and they now exceed several hundred.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Civil Rights Defenders raise a warning regarding the deteriorating situation for human rights defenders in Cuba, and we note with great concern the indifference of the international community, especially from the US government, the EU and the Vatican, of which the latter played an active role in the talks between the Cuban government and the US administration.

The current actions by the Cuban government are a response to the silence of the international community. continue reading

In accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – of which Cuba is a signatory – the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which the government of Raul Castro has signed but not ratified – and, as the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, Maina Kiai has recently explained clearly in his final report; states shall ensure the full exercise of freedom of assembly, association and peaceful demonstration.

The Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Civil Rights Defenders call on the international community to act against the dangers that Cuban human rights defenders are facing. It is time for the American and European governments, usually eager to improve their relations with the Cuban government, to use their influence and speak out against the worsening violations of human rights in Cuba.

Antonio G. Rodiles, Coordinating Committee, Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Erik Jennische, Programme Director for Latin America, Civil Rigths Defenders

For more information on the repression against Damas de Blanco/Ladies in White on April 26 2015, follow the link

Raul Castro, you fear being unmasked / Antonio Rodiles

Your speech at the extraordinary ALBA summit reconfirms that you and your group are going to try to hold onto power at all costs. It doesn’t matter if the Cuban people are sunk in misery and desperation, it doesn’t matter if your children continue to escape this disaster, you people intend to remain and to demolish everything.

Your speech said that Cuban “civil society” will unmask the mercenaries and their bosses, I again remind you, your brother and your group are the greatest traitors and anti-Cubans and your spokespeople and repressors are the real mercenaries.

You have imprisoned, executed, expelled, punished, harassed and humiliated great Cubans, you and your brother will go down in history as the worst sons of this land.

If you are so sure of your pathetic spokespeople, why do you block an important group of Cubans who want continue reading

to travel to Panama? Why impose limits on our freedom of movement? Why have you cancelled passports? If you and your band weren’t so sinister, your false discourse would be laughable.

You won’t allow ex-prisoners from the Group of 75 to travel, people like: Ángel Juan Moya, Arnaldo Ramos Lauzarique, Eduardo Díaz Fleitas, Félix Navarro, Héctor Fernando Maseda, Iván Hernández Carrillo, Jorge Olivera, Marta Beatriz Roque Cabello, José Daniel Ferrer, Oscar Elías Bicet. And artists like: Ailer González Mena and Tania Bruguera. And activists like: Egberto Escobedo, Hugo Damián Prieto Blanco and Antonio G. Rodiles, among others.

You fear being face to face with worthy Cubans, you tremble at the mere thought that you will hear sharp and direct truths face-to-face. You and your brother, you are nothing more than dark dictators whom we will manage to throw out so that our people, once and for all, can live in freedom, peace and prosperity.

Antonio G. Rodiles, 17 March 2015

Speaking with one voice / Antonio Rodiles

ANTONIO G. RODILES, Havana, 4 February 2015 – Days ago the attorney Rene Gomez Manzano wrote an article about the similarities of the Roadmap formulated by the Forum for Rights and Freedoms and the four points of the Civil Society Open Forum. Upon hearing yesterday of the regime opponent Manuel Cuesta Morua’s remarks at the US Senate hearing on Cuba, it seems appropriate to me to point out as clearly as possible what are the points on which the two predominant positions within the Cuban opposition agree and differ.

The announcement by President Barack Obama last December 17 polarized the opposition into two trends. The essential differences between the two groups are not only about whether or not they support the measures launched by Obama, but the focus on how we conceive the transition and the kind of country we see in the future.

Both positions show our commitment to democracy, human rights and the end of totalitarianism. But are we giving the exact same same connotation to these terms? continue reading

Obama’s policy is applauded by those joined together in the Open Space, which has several visible elements:

  1. It gives legitimacy to the regime to restore diplomatic relations, that is it accepts the government as legitimate.
  1. There is no roadmap or preconditions for the political process although it mentions four points without fixing a methodology.
  1. It accepts that the transition process will be principally, at least at the beginning, in the hands of the political actors of the regime, which presupposes that they will be part of the future of the island.
  1. It considers that the democratic changes will come as an evolution of supposed economic transformations that the regime will be motivated or pressured to pursue from the new measures implemented.
  1. And something that has not formed part of the measures but that has happened in practice, it accepts that the Obama administration gives preference to those from the opposition and within the Island, who share this view.

Those of us who join together in the Forum believe that the political process must be based on a different logic:

  1. The Cuban regime is not a government elected by the people and therefore is not legitimate for representing a sovereign people, although for reasons of logical survival we have to accept certain rules. As a sovereign people, i.e. as Cubans, we have the right to demand with regards to the relations of democratic nations with our country.
  1. We do not conceive the future of Cuba in the hands of the political heirs and relatives of the Castro. We will not join the construction of a new authoritarianism that will continue the process of destruction of our nation.
  1. We consider that any political process must have full transparency in its objectives, must be well considered if it is to at least have some certainties at the end. Hence the Roadmap with the points raised.
  1. Human rights and the promotion of democracy, as primary objectives, should not be masked by other elements. They must be shown especially to the Cuban people, confused after 57 years of dictatorship, so they can decide in what direction they want to take this country.
  1. So yes, it belongs to Cubans, inside the Island and in exile, to find their way, giving space to the political actors of civil society to give direction to the real changes.

It is time to discuss with total clarity. The serious and direct debate should be in the maturation of the actors and the political scenario. The distinct visions about how to construct a nation are natural and healthy, but we can play our roles effectively only if there is a certain political confidence among the actors. Perhaps we do not form a symphony orchestra, although we could be a jazz ensemble, where everyone plays their parts without strident or abusive sounds.