Letter to Barack Obama: Forum for Rights and Freedoms and Resistance Assembly

Obama Cuba Has a Dream: Cuba Without Castros. We All March.
Obama Cuba Has a Dream: Cuba Without Castros. We All March.

March 16, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. President:
There is an immense concern about the fate of our nation that is affecting millions of Cubans. If the current plans of the regime to transfer power to its heirs and political henchmen are materialized, we Cubans will simply confront a new incarnation of this ruthless dictatorship. Corruption, nepotism, lack of values, violations and blatant indifference to the pain of the people are just a few among the many illnesses of this government.

The new policies towards Cuba spearheaded by your administration pose the risk of legitimizing the deeply entrenched Cuban regime. continue reading

Moreover, it would do so without receiving anything in return. The friendly gestures, formal recognition and official negotiations bestowed on the Castros by the United States government have actually yielded a significant increase in violence against the opposition, especially against women activists.  It is no wonder then, why a record number of Cubans are currently fleeing the island.

The Castro Regime will not generate its own change.  It has remained in power for nearly six decades by carrying out horrific human rights violations.  In Cuba, human rights violations are systemic; they are an institutional part of the Regime’s so-called judiciary system.

We would never imagine that the democratic world would legitimize the Castros.  These individuals have destroyed the well-being of our nation. From firing squads and political assassinations to political imprisonment, thousands of Cubans inside and outside the island have had their lives taken by the Regime because of their advocacy of a Free Cuba.

The most relevant issues about the adverse effects of Castro’s dictatorship on the Cuban people will not be part of the agenda of your visit. The presidential delegation includes CEOs from top American corporations as well as members of Congress who are eager to trade with the regime, including the Secretary of Agriculture and Commerce, as well as the SBA Administrator. Why there are not human rights advocates among them? Sadly, it’s more than obvious that the main objective of this visit is to eagerly solidify business deals.

If the quest for commerce continues to be placed above the support of the pro-democracy and civil rights movement in Cuba, the legacy left by your administration will be one where the suffering of the Cuban people was prolonged.  Yet, your best contribution would be to act as a facilitator of a true democratic transition in Cuba.

When members of the international community turn their backs on our demands and proposals, they actually facilitate the regime’s escalation in violence, as well as the further fracture of the Cuban society.  To those who visit Cuba as if it were some type of exotic zoo of sorts without acknowledging the crude reality that the Cuban society is going through, we remind them what Edmund Burke once said: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We respectfully remind you, sir, of your own words in February 1981, when as a student leader speaking against the South African apartheid regime and those corporations investing there, you said:

“There’s a struggle going on. It’s happening an ocean away. But it’s a struggle that touches each and every one of us. Whether we know it or not. A struggle that demands that we choose sides. Not between black and white. Not between rich and poor. No. it’s a harder choice than that. It’s a choice between dignity and servitude. Between fairness and injustice. Between commitment and indifference. A choice between right and wrong.”

In spite of all the odds appearing to be stacked up against us, the oppressed, we have full confidence in our victory.  History teaches us of the plight of those seeking civil justice and freedom.  We know that seemingly impossible roads will miraculously open up for us, as if life itself stepped in to make things, as they should be.

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.

Media Campaign Aims to Discredit Rodiles / Angel Santiesteban

Antonio Rodiles making a statement after his arrest

Angel Santiesteban Prats, 26 December 2015 — State Security is using all the tools in its arsenal to denigrate Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles, who is currently the most uncomfortable thorn in the side of the regime, in the court of national and international public opinion.

Rodiles is one of three organizers of the Forum for Rights and Liberties. In conjunction with the Ladies in White and other human rights organizations, the group promotes peaceful Sunday marches — demonstrations which have been causing great harm to the regime — under the hashtag #TodosMarchamos.

Following mass at St. Rita Church, the group meets — as coincidence would have it — at Gandhi Park, and walks in a peaceful weekly procession along 26th Street to Third Avenue. They do this knowing that what awaits them, Sunday after Sunday, is one of those operations mounted by the repressive forces of the Castro clan to which we have become so accustomed. Fortunately, however, images of every repressive attack are recorded, leaving no doubt as to what is really going on. continue reading

The reaction by the regime is clear evidence that Rodiles is hitting them where they are most vulnerable: the nerve center from which they have zealously maintained, for more than half a century in power, social discipline. As usual, they have used nastiness, lies and posturing in an attempt to strip him of his personal attributes, actions which have caused outrage because of the cowardice which they have been concocted.

This is a well-known tactic, one that has been used many times before on other opposition figures. The macabre plan is to first tarnish his image and, once they have sown doubt about him in the public’s mind, to then imprison him, because putting Rodiles behind bars is a longstanding dream the political police will always fight to achieve.

This smear campaign recently began after Rodiles returned from the United States, where he was invited to speak at a congressional debate in Washington on the topic of Cuba. He later met with prominent Cuban-American congressional representatives, who are calling on the government of Raul Castro to respect freedom and human rights on the island as a prerequisite for progress in restoring diplomatic relations. It is worth remembering that, upon returning home from his first such visit last year, Rodiles’ organization was the object of a cyber attack, albeit a relatively minor one.

Those maneuvering to sully human rights activists are working hard to dismantle the Forum for Rights and Freedoms. To do this, they need to get Rodiles out of the way, dismember the Ladies in White organization and remove the obstacles blocking their path to remaining in power, as they have done for nearly six decades.

If the Castro dictatorship reacts this way to someone like Antonio Rodiles, clearly it must be because he is doing something right. Persecuting him is payback for his political activism, for his constant defiance of the injustices that the regime perpetrates against those who oppose its plans.

Neither the defamations aimed at vilifying him — in essence, because of his pride — nor the entire army of followers that the terrorist state uses to harass him will be enough. Nor will plotting to achieve spurious benefits succeed in changing our standards or our ideas. On the contrary, this shameful strategy convinces us even more of the need for a clean and democratic government.

Angel Santiesteban-Prats

Havana, December 2015, “free” on parole.

Forum for Rights and Freedoms Road Map

cropped-forologo1-copy-cop1y2Demands of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (Road Map)

  • Immediate release and annulment of sentences for all political prisoners (Amnesty Decree)
  • With regards to the Constitution, laws, regulations, procedures and administrative practices: Repeal all articles that violate the United Nations International Covenants on Human Rights. Protect freedoms of expression, association, assembly, movement, conscience, religion, economics and culture. Establish full guarantees for the exercise of these freedoms
  • With regards to the penal code: Eliminate the crime of pre-criminal dangerousness, as well as all regulations that support arbitrary detentions, arrests and harassment.
  • Restore judicial and constitutional guarantees and the right to due process
  • New Law of Association that includes legalization of political parties, independent unions and guarantees for the freedom of association. Trade union rights must take into account the established norms of the International Labor Organization
  • New Communications Media Law that guarantees freedom of expression and the free flow of information
  • New Electoral Law that guarantees free and plural elections. (Restoration of National Sovereignty)

Fundamental Demands for a Political Process

  • Transparency for the Cuban nation
  • Participation of the principal and genuine political actors within the Island and in exile
  • Multilateralism, support from the international community, international organizations and institutions, and in particular those related to the defense of Human Rights and the promotion of Democracy
  • Firm commitment to Human Rights through the ratification and implementation of the United Nations Covenants. Execution and monitoring of legal and legislative changes
  • Implementation of changes in labor relations using the norms of the International Labor Organization
  • Conditionality. We demand concrete and measurable commitments to democratization, using the proposed Road Map, for the advance of the process

We do not accept the mutation of the region to a neo-Castroism, we accept only a full democratic transition: with political pluralism, an independent judiciary, freedom and human rights.

Email contact: ForoDyL@gmail twitterL @ForoDyL

Declaration on the Cuban Migrant Crisis / Forum for Rights and Freedoms


Forum for Rights and Freedoms, 23 November 2015 — In recent weeks we have observed, with deep concern, the development of a new migration crisis. The human drama that thousands of Cubans are experiencing already affects the entire Central American region, the Caribbean, and especially Costa Rica, a nation that has received migrants with great solidarity, in contrast to the complicity of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The Castro regime has decided, once again – we recall the Camarioca exodus in 1965, the Mariel Boatlift in the 1980s, the Rafter Crisis in 1994 – to use Cubans as pieces in their political game, putting at risk their lives and safety. Denunciations of abuse, assaults and every kind of crime against Cuban emigrants has elicited the solidarity of all people of goodwill.

Since coming the Castro dictatorship’s coming to power, the regime has used migratory crises to win concessions from the United States. continue reading

In this case, the regime is pressuring the United States, and involving third parties, in the midst of a process of normalization between the Obama administration and the dictatorship, to win additional concessions from president Obama, without having to take steps to improve the appalling situation of human rights in Cuba.

We condemn the profound contempt, and the indolent and inhumane attitude of the dictatorship towards Cubans. Only a transition to democracy and respect for fundamental rights and freedoms can reverse the misery that exists on the island.

We appeal to international organizations and those involved to be in solidarity with the Cuban people and their right to be free, in the face of his scenario that becomes more complex every day.

Foro por los Derechos y Libertades / Forum for Rights and Freedoms
Ailer González, Estado de Sats
Ángel Moya, Movimiento Libertad Democrática por Cuba
Ángel Santiesteban, Estado de Sats
Antonio G. Rodiles, Estado de Sats
Berta Soler, Dama de Blanco
Claudio Fuentes, Estado de Sats
Egberto Escobedo, Asociación de presos y expresos políticos en Cuba
María Cristina Labrada, Dama de Blanco
Raul Borges, Partido por la Unidad Democrática Cristiana

Other signers
Frank Calzon, Center for a Free Cuba
Lincoln Díaz-Balart, El Instituto La Rosa Blanca
Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat, Directorio Democrático Cubano

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

Estado de Sats… for our Spanish-speaking viewers

Unfortunately we do not have the resources to translate and subtitle all the wonderful videos coming out of Estado de Sats and the Forum for Rights and Freedom, but for our many readers who do understand spoken Spanish, we just wanted to remind you they are there.

This particular video is a discussion of the Americas Summit in Panama.

The Estado de Sats YouTube channel is here.

29 April 2015

Post Summit Debate / 14ymedio


14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 17 April 2105 – This Friday morning, the Forum for Rights and Freedoms convened a group of activists to a meeting under the title After the Summit in Panama, what next?  The event took place at the home of Antonio González Rodiles, director of the opposition group Estado de Sats.

About 70 attendees heard testimony from Berta Soler, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez Antunez, Gorki Águila, Roberto de Jesús Guerra and other activists who participated in the Civil Society Forum during the recently concluded Seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama.

The discussions addressed issues related to the restoration of relations between Cuba and the United States and on the actions taken by the representatives of civil society sent to Panama by the Cuban government.

Condemning the Violence in Panama / Forum for Rights and Freedoms


We condemn the violent events

This April 8th groups associated with the Cuban regime tried to sabotage the programmed activities of the Seventh Summit of the Americas. They asserted that they could not share the space with other Cubans who, according to them, were terrorists and mercenaries. These old worn out arguments hide all the intolerance and contempt that totalitarianism has sown toward any Cuban who desires a free country. Then the usual shouts and insults appeared. A few hours later the news circulated that a group of opponents, from the island and the exile, were beating crowds of Castro supporters in a public park.

The Cuban regime has constructed a false civil society designed to control and repress, even with violence, the legitimate aspirations of the exercise of freedom of association. The fact that Mr. Abel Prieto, personal advisor to the dictator Raul Castro, was the chief of the delegation, of the supposed official groups of civil society, speaks for itself. continue reading

From the Forum for Rights and Freedoms we proudly recognize all Cuban artists, intellectuals, activists and politicians who have attended this great event to bring a message of freedom and rights. For the opponents who suffer verbal and physical and aggressions, we offer all our solidarity and support.

We appreciate the opportunity provided by the Panamanian government so that Cuban civil society can participate in this event and we hope that it establishes a precedent. The genuine civil society must play its rightful role in our nation.

The region is now facing a complex dilemma. We cannot accept the authoritarians as legitimate actors, the challenge is to firmly promote democracy and basic rights. In Cuba, we accept the challenge.

Coordinating Council

Forum for Rights and Freedoms, Declaration, VII Summit of the Americas

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Forum for Rights and Freedoms: Declaration

VII Summit of the Americas

April 2015

Violations of fundamental rights in Cuba are enshrined in the current legal system. The full exercise of these fundamental rights is considered directly opposed to the interests “of the Cuban people in building socialism and communism.”

The so-called constitution establishes the ownership and control of the State and the Communist Party over the communication media and mass distribution. The Law of Protection of National Independence and the Economy of Cuba, known as the Gag Law, sets sentences of up to 20 years for those who attempt to violate this provision.

Trade unions, civic, professional and human rights associations that do not profess the official ideology are not recognized. Those who attempt to organize meetings or found independent associations can suffer imprisonment, dismissal, harassment or intimidation. Thousands of Cubans have paid, even with their lives, for trying to exercise their freedoms. continue reading

The Penal Code defines “pre-criminal dangerousness” and applies it according to the standards of a supposed “socialist morality.” Arrests, imprisonments and beatings of human rights activists, political opponents and independent journalists are recurring.

The use of violence on the part of paralegal groups as a form of social control has been one of the most abhorrent practices of the Castro regime. This deplorable experience has been exported to other Latin American nations, as was the case of the Dignity Brigades 25 years ago in Panama, and the so-called Collectives in Venezuela today.

Economic rights are also violated and the entrepreneurial capacity and character of Cubans struggling against a regime obsessed with control. Corruption, taxes that smother micro-businesses, total State control over imports and exports, the absence of property rights, make up a part of our scenario. The economic situation is dire.

The regime has ratified dozens of international treaties on the issue of Human Rights, although it refuses to ratify the Human Rights Covenants of the United Nations. However, the majority of these standards have not been applied to the legal system, becoming a dead letter. The Castro regime continues to hide fugitives from justice for common crimes and terrorism. It violates international norms as in in the case of the recent arms trafficking and maintains a “complicit silence” about the trafficking of Cubans to the United States through third countries.

We do not accept the mutation of a neo-Castro authoritarianism, where the old elite transfers power to its political and family heirs.

The sovereignty of our country does not rest on a despotic and corrupt regime. It rests in the people and, in particular, in those of us who fight for a true democracy: with political pluralism, an independent judiciary, freedom and human rights. Where we Cubans can define our destinies through consultations and free and transparent electoral processes, as set out in important opposition documents such as: The Agreement for Democracy, or the Forum for Rights and Freedoms Roadmap.

No society can be viable if it oppresses the human being. To accept that there are different interpretations of our freedoms constitutes a tactic that validates authoritarianism as an alternate form to democracy on our continent.

We appeal to the solidarity and the just support of the entire regional and international community to initiate the urgent path to the democratization of our nation.