Friday, August 18, 2017

In Solidarity with Barcelona #YoSoyEspañol #JoSócCatalá

#WithBarcelona #BarcelonaContigo

Pray for Barcelona. No more terrorism. My heart is with you.
At least 13 killed and a hundred wounded in Barcelona yesterday in acts of terrorism. I spent a year living in Madrid back in 2005-2006 and had been there several times before and after visiting this my home away from home. I'd also spent time in Barcelona and walked through the Ramblas, the scene of one of the terror attacks. The news of the attacks yesterday in Barcelona fill me both with anger and intense sorrow.  My prayers and thoughts are with those killed, wounded by the terrorists in Spain and their families. Today in solidarity I say Yo soy Español, Jo Sóc Catalá.

In solidarity with my Spanish brothers and sisters I will pray for the dead, wounded and their loved ones. At the same time will celebrate Spanish culture by patronizing Spanish establishments in South Florida this weekend and listening to Spanish music. One of my favorite bands is a band based out of Barcelona called "El Último de la Fila" that was active between 1984 and 1998. Below is a selection of some of their music videos.

If you like their sound you might want to purchase their music. One of the songs that impacted me tonight is Dear Milagros [Querida Milagros], an anti-war song and the lyrics:

He visto a los hombres llorar como niños;
he visto a la muerte como un ave extraña,
planear en silencio sobre los caminos,
devorar a un sol que es tuyo y es mio. 

This translated to English as follows and listening to it haunts me:

I have seen men cry like children;
I have seen death as a strange bird,
To plan in silence on the paths, 

To devour a sun that is yours and mine.

We are living through an age of terror from the streets of Charleston in Virginia to Paris, London, Brussels, Madrid, Istanbul, Cairo, New York, Washington DC and on and on. Yesterday it returned to Spain in Barcelona.

Remain vigilant, seek justice, and Illegitimi non carborundum. ¡Viva España!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance issues new statement on ICCAS scandal at UM

"Institutional engagement between our beloved University of Miami and the murderous Castro Regime, and safeguarding the objectivity and integrity of ICCAS are essential concerns of our community." 

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance at the Brigade 2506 Museum and Library

August 17, 2017

Throughout the years, the University of Miami has been an important part of our Cuban-American community and the Cuban American community has greatly supported the University of Miami. Many generations of Cuban-Americans whose families made Miami their home have pursued their higher education studies at the University of Miami. As our community grew, so did the University. We are as much a part of the University of Miami as the University is a part of us. Our community has made significant contributions to the University’s growth and current reputation throughout the world for its educational excellence. The Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) has been a key component of this relationship, and it has objectively and factually reflected the truth about Cuba and our community since it was founded almost twenty years ago.

At a time when freedom of speech and academic freedom are challenged by the influence of both authoritarian and totalitarian regimes on campuses across the country, we must all remain vigilant about the Castro regime’s efforts to influence Cuban and Latin American studies at American universities. The issue of ICCAS has to do with our concern about hostile foreign government disinformation, and as the FBI has reported, the Castro regime’s recruitment efforts in the academic community in the United States.

A meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow by the President of the University of Miami with a limited number of members of our Cuban American community -as well as others- to discuss the controversy regarding ICCAS. Many prominent Cuban exile and Cuban American academics and intellectuals, as well as community leaders have been regrettably excluded from this meeting.  The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance as a plural, inclusive and democratic institution of this community, stands together as one to express our concerns and reiterate that in order to safeguard ICCAS’ future as a truthful, balanced and objective institute for Cuban and Cuban American studies within the University of Miami, we recommend the following:
  • That the University/Institute does not engage in any exchange with Cuban academic institutions because they are under the direct control of Cuba’s one-party totalitarian state.  As has been amply demonstrated, academia is seen as a tool of intelligence gathering and influence peddling by the Castro dictatorship.  We are steadfastly opposed to opening up the University of Miami to this poisonous exchange.
  • That the University/Institute rescinds the appointment of Dr. Andy Gomez as ICCAS interim director. Dr. Gomez has been publicly recognized for promoting ventures with commercial enterprises that do business with Cuba under its totalitarian regime. Dr. Gomez’ as interim director will further divide the Cuban American community from the University of Miami, rather than bridging the divide that has been created.
  •  That the University/Institute formally include the Cuban American community in the search committee for the new interim director and the permanent director of ICCAS.

It is our sincere hope that our fellow Cuban Americans attending tomorrow’s meeting make the above recommendations their own.  Institutional engagement between our beloved University of Miami and the murderous Castro Regime, and safeguarding the objectivity and integrity of ICCAS are essential concerns of our community.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

If nonviolence is not enough then violence is even less so

"Using violence is a stupid decision." - Dr. Gene Sharp, January 30, 2012

Violent resistance usually plays to the regime's strength

Read with great interest Julio M. Shiling's essay "Cuando la no violencia es insuficiente" [When nonviolence is insufficient] published in Pulso Venezolano and how it began with Ho Chi Minh's opinion that Gandhi would have abandoned the nonviolent struggle in a week if it had been the French, instead of the British, that he had to confront in India. The second critic of nonviolence cited in the essay Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, also a man of the Left, carries out an analysis that limits the possibilities of success to a democratic polity where freedom of expression and association exist.

Ideological and theoretical objections to nonviolence 
Orthodox communists believe, as an intrinsic part of their doctrine, in class struggle and warfare as mechanisms of societal evolution. Mohandas Gandhi rejected this paradigm in favor of a nonviolent relationship between different social classes and racial groups.  The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of this new paradigm as the "beloved community."  The past century has demonstrated that class struggle and war can achieve things in the short term, but often times the new system inaugurated with great violence turns out worse than the old preexisting one. This was the case in Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. 

An analysis of conflicts over the past century both violent and nonviolent against a variety of different types of regimes: democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian reveals that both Ho Chi Minh and George Orwell are wrong, nonviolent campaigns have been more successful than violent campaigns.  The more repressive and brutal a regime, the more effective nonviolent resistance and the less effective violent resistance. Democratic regimes that provide spaces for freedom of expression and association  are much more resilient in dealing with and containing dissent.

Nonviolent campaigns doubly more successful then violent campaigns
University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.

In his essay on the dissolution of the Soviet empire Shiling argues that, although a factor, nonviolence was of less importance than the shift from a containment policy under previous U.S. Administrations to a rollback policy under Ronald Reagan during the Cold War.  He also highlights the role of direct violent action against communist regimes in Grenada, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistán, and El Salvador. Out of the five countries, one was a foreign invasion carried out by the United States (Grenada) while in the other four countries where indigenous movements received training and supplies to keep communists out of power (El Salvador) or force them out (Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistán) things did not go well.  Communists took power (El Salvador) regained power (Nicaragua) stayed in power (Angola) or transitioned into something worse (Afghanistan) with the Taliban which involved blow back for the United States on September 11, 2001 with the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that claimed the lives of 3,000 Americans.

Difference between a foreign policy of nonviolent solidarity and one of appeasement 
The question that should logically arise is how did things turn out where nonviolence was the primary approach both in international and domestic politics? In Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union where the Reagan Administration along with UK's Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II,  and Helmut Kohl pursued an aggressive but predominantly nonviolent approach highlighting and demonstrating solidarity with dissidents. Russia and Belarus today are authoritarian regimes, but the rest of Eastern Europe remains, at least nominally, democratic which is a vast improvement over where they were in 1989.

Sadly the case of the Tiananmen uprising of 1989 in China provides a counterpoint where Western powers, led by the United States, had embraced the communist regime as a strategic and commercial partner. Instead of siding with the dissidents the West protested the massacre publicly but privately sided with the communist autocracy and empowered it to the point where it is an even greater threat today. Chinese dissidents bravely engaged in nonviolent resistance and shook the power centers of the Chinese Communist regime, but sadly a policy of appeasement by Western countries reinforced and protected the dictatorship.

In his essay Schilling left out the violent revolution in Romania that is now viewed as a false dawn because the violence was perpetrated by factions within the communist elite that remained in power afterwards. The drive for change in Eastern Europe began with Poland and the nonviolent Solidarity labor movement that achieved real and lasting change. The question that arises is why was Romania different than other countries in Eastern Europe? The answer, in part, is that U.S. policy was different.

Ronald Reagan entered office on January 20, 1981 and eleven months later on December 13, 1981 the communist regime in Poland declared martial law and was cracking down on the Solidarity movement. 10,000 people were rounded up and about 100 died during martial law. Reagan in his Christmas Address on December 23, 1981 denounced the crackdown and outlined economic sanctions against Poland while demanding that the human rights of the Polish people be respected.

This was in marked contrast to the relationship with the regime in Romania. Out of all the countries of Eastern Europe, the United States had the closest diplomatic relations with Romania. This was due to the Nixon administration seeking to exploit differences between Romania and the Soviet Union. Nicolae Ceasescu denounced the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and continued diplomatic relations with Israel maintaining an independent foreign policy from the Soviet Union. This would go on to be a bipartisan affair with Jimmy Carter hosting the Romanian dictator in Washington, DC in 1978. However in the end the Romanian regime was one of the most brutal in Eastern Europe and ended in a bloody and violent mess. Another negative legacy of détente.

There is a vast difference between a policy based in nonviolence and solidarity as was the Reagan Administration's policy, for the most part, in Eastern Europe with victims of repression and one of appeasement with the oppressor as was U.S. policy in Romania and China. Although on the surface they may appear similar, they are profoundly different.

Setting the record straight on nonviolence guru Gene Sharp
Shiling provides an overview of some of the important works of Gene Sharp and sums up his theory of power as follows: "Sharp's theory rests on the premise that the essence of power lies primarily in the subjects' obedience to political leadership. If the subjects do not obey the political power, argues the American theoretician, the leaders would not have power and consequently, the dictatorship collapses or withers." However this idea is not Gene Sharp's but belongs to Étienne de La Boétie, a French Judge, who elaborated on this in his 1552 work "The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude."

Gene Sharp's work is influenced by de La Boétie but is a lot more developed. Furthermore the case he makes is on how to self-liberate without depending on outside powers, that are often not reliable and driven by their own narrow self interests. Sharp's 2009 book available online: "Self-Liberation A Guide to Strategic Planning  for Action to End a Dictatorship  or Other Oppression" offers a clearer and more developed insight to his theoretical approach.  Critics of nonviolent resistance view it as an unarmed struggle when contrasted with violent resistance. Gene Sharp in 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston contested that mistaken view:
"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."
Nonviolence theoretician Gene Sharp also recognizes that there is a moral dimension that cannot be ignored without dire consequences (as the recent drive to normalize relations with the Castro regime in Cuba demonstrated): "It is unreasonable to aim for a 'win- win' resolution. Brutal dictators and perpetrators of genocide do not deserve to win anything."

Charlotte Israel protested at Rosenstrasse to get her Jewish husband (1943)
German wives forced Hitler to return their Jewish husbands from death camps in 1943
It has been demonstrated that indigenous resistance movements confronting a brutal dictatorship have a much higher probability of success if they are nonviolent. Shiling mentions the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, but fails to mention how in 1943 on Rosenstrasse street German wives married to Jewish men, who had been taken to concentration camps, organized a series of strikes and protests that forced the Nazis to return their husbands back from the death camps. Those men survived the Holocaust thanks to their wives courageous and nonviolent action.  The disturbing question that arises: What would have happened if instead of the violent Antifa movement, that fought the Nazis in street battles throughout the 1930s that escalated violence, opponents of the Nazis had followed Gandhi's advice at the time and resisted them nonviolently?

Although agree with Shiling that international support can help I do not believe that its absence relegates a nonviolent movement to "inspiring and epic heroic acts, but incapable of producing significant political changes on their own." Ironically that is an excellent description of what happens to a violent resistance movement without substantial outside logistical and material support. A nonviolent resistance that does an analysis of the situation on the ground, analyses the pillars of support for the regime and develops a strategy for undermining those pillars can accomplish a lot but it requires analysis, discipline, stubbornness and persistence.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami is worth saving

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." - William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming (1919)

Farewell Casa Bacardi?
 The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) has been an important point of reference for Cuban Studies based at the University of Miami with an international reputation that debunked disinformation and misinformation about the regime in Cuba. In 2017 the Center has published authors and academics Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, Dr. José Azel and Dr. Pedro Roig heading ICCAS.

Dr. José Azel with Yoani Sanchez at ICCAS
 World renown author and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner annually gives a series of community lectures on the history of Cuba that are heavily attended.  The Institute opened its doors both to the Cuban American community and the Cuban dissident movement on the island.  All voices and views were welcome in an atmosphere of rigorous academic exchange.

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki with Rosa María Payá
 The director of the Institute, Professor Jaime Suchlicki is the co-editor of the tenth edition of Cuban Communism. Reviewers of the 901 page tome say that it "has widely come to be known as 'the Bible of Cuban Studies.'" The distinguished periodical Foreign Affairs said of it: "There is no handier guide to the Castro regime and the debates swirling around it." Dr. Suchlicki wanted "to create a place where young Cuban-Americans could come and learn about Cuba’s history and culture,” and for the last 18 years he created that space at the University of Miami. This tradition of academic excellence and seeking out the facts has made it a long time target of the Castro regime.

The Hurricane used cover for Castro's 2016 death but appropriate today with ICCAS
 Mike Gonzalez, currently a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation think tank, has written an important analysis of how foreign governments influence what Americans learn in college. The term "influence" is an understatement. He outlines how China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Cuba have successfully censored and propagandized what is taught at American colleges and universities.  The section of the article on Cuba described what is now taking place at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies:
Long a thorn in the side of the communist dictatorship in Havana, ICCAS has constantly received vituperative attacks by the regime’s propaganda outlets. Never before, however, has it come under the threat of the university’s own leadership. Frenk is a long-standing and well-known admirer of the Cuban regime’s health practices. As Mexico’s health secretary in 2001, he said Cuba had the best health indicators in Latin America, and Mexico would benefit from learning about Cuba’s success.
Unfortunately for Frenk, the ICCAS kept saying the truth about Cuba’s failed health system, as it did on July 20 in a report called “Cuba’s Silence is Dangerous to Your Health.” That report notes that “After a century hiatus, cholera, malaria and dengue have returned to Cuba.” I post the report here because it seems to have disappeared from the ICCAS website. The move to close the ICCAS by Frenk, whose wife Felicia Knaul was installed as the university’s director of the Miami Institute of the Americas after he became president, proved highly controversial in Miami. He now says he never wanted to close the center at all, but only to change its leadership.
Frenk’s version of events is disputed by Jose Azel, one of the academics whom Jaime Suchliki, the esteemed ICCAS director, had to summarily dismiss when he was informed by the university’s provost on July 9 that he had to close the institute on August 15. In an article recently in El Nuevo Herald, The Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition, Azel says “I have verified that Dr. Suchliki’s termination agreement explicitly requires him to ‘effect the cessation of operations for the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies’.”
When I passed by the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) last week the moving truck was there and the movers were carrying everything out.  Last month when conflicting accounts emerged about what would become of ICCAS my experience in dealing with University bureaucrats as an undergraduate led me to believe Dr. Suchlicki, the faculty member with a half century of dedicated scholarship and service to the community, over Dr. Julio Frenk, the newly arrived bureaucrat with a fondness for Cuba's totalitarian healthcare system.

Dr. Suchlicki has not abandoned his mission but will now continue it outside of the University of Miami and that is a great shame. The lack of candor and coverup by the UM administration is an even greater shame and another black eye for academia.

Panel organized by the Cuban Democratic Directorate in 2015
For the record I was proud to have participated in several panel discussions over the years at the  Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) and mourn its passing at the University of Miami.

Keeping ICCAS at the University of Miami and maintaining the tradition of critical inquiry established by Dr. Suchlicki in 1999 is sorely needed in today's academic environment where academic freedom is under assault. I pray that this little platoon of society against all odds is maintained at the University of Miami. Today is supposedly Dr. Suchlicki's final day at the University of Miami after a half century of service. I hope that this will not be the case and that Professor Suchlicki will be able to continue and oversee the transition to new leadership that will keep his dream alive at the University of Miami.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

#Charlottesville: When hate collides with hate

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." - Martin Luther King Jr.

Neo-Nazis and Neo-Communists clash in Charlottesville, Virgina
Neo-Nazis, white supremacists organized a series of events in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee there that had sparked a debate in the community. Sadly these groups sought to use the existing controversy to advance their racist, hate filled agenda and attract national media attention.

Marching with Communist and Nazi flags in Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday
Giving Nazi salutes and waving the flag of the Nazi Third Reich they marched by torch light and the next day gathered in protest. During the torchlight march a group of counter-protesters peacefully gathered around the Robert E. Lee statue with a banner that read Virginia Students against White Supremacy" and shouted out against the racist and anti-Semitic nature of the march. At the same time communist red guards filled the ranks of counter-protestors with calls for violence and intimidation to be directed at the Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. The stage was set for a collision between two hateful ideologies feeding off each other along with the glare of media attention. According to a Boone Rising Facebook post reproduced on an anarchist website: 
"The antifa strategically incited enough violence before noon to make the police to declare it illegal to gather in Emancipation Park. Through this strategic violence they effectively made a previously legally permitted Nazi rally, illegal."
Some necessary historical context
More than 400,000 Americans were killed by the Axis Powers, led by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. The Nazi swastika flag, in addition to its racist and anti-Semitic history, represents a regime that laid waste to Europe and killed tens of millions. An estimated 11 million non-combatants, of which six million were Jewish were murdered by the Nazis.

"Make racists afraid again..."
Meanwhile the counter-protesters carried red flags and signs with the Soviet hammer and sickle, a symbol of international communism. Over a 100,000 Americans were killed fighting communist regimes in Korea and Vietnam. Communism has killed over a 100 million people over the past century.

Protesters and counter-protesters clash in Charlottesville, Virginia
More victims of Nazism
These neo-communists also carried signs that read "Make racists afraid again." Violent clashes occurred, Heather Heyer, age 32, (a local counter protester) was killed run down by James Field, age 20, (a white supremacist from Ohio) who with a car drove into a crowd of counter protesters. Nineteen others were injured. Field has been charged with second degree murder.

The fact that in 2017 some would still wave either loathsome flag should give us all pause to reflect on what is going on and where we are headed. What is forgotten is that both share a common history. Both Fascism and Leninism emerged out of a crisis of Marxism. Marxist historians would prefer to forget that Benito Mussolini before starting fascism was a Marxist.

Nazi Foreign Minister Von Ribbentrop, Joseph Stalin, & Soviet foreign minister Molotov
Furthermore despite their anti-racist rhetoric in the United States during the Obama Presidency the communist regime of North Korea engaged in a racist screed against President Obama in May of 2014 that drew an official critcism from the White House.

Ten days from today marks the 38th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact when Soviet foreign minister Vyacheslav Molotov and Nazi foreign minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, signed a treaty between the Nazi Third Reich and the Soviet Union that became an alliance to conquer and divide Poland and the Baltic states between the two totalitarian dictatorships. It was responsible for the start of World War II.

German and Soviet Union soldiers greet one another in Poland (1939)
The Czech writer Milan Kundera observed that "the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting." This observation is especially relevant today when both the swastika and hammer and sickle are raised by young Americans  and this dark chapter of history must not be forgotten.

Day of Remembrance for Victims of Communism and Nazism 2017
Racism, slavery and white supremacy are historic problems in the American experience but throwing Nazism or Communism into the mix will not help. The events this last week in Charlottesville, Virginia demonstrate that. They are not opposites but mirror reflections of each other with a combined body count of over a 160 million dead.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Why possibility of Castro regime harming U.S. and Canadian diplomats should not be a surprise

The Castro regime is an outlaw regime. 

Canadian Embassy in Havana, Cuba
Today, another shoe dropped, the Associated Press reported that Canadian government said that at least one Canadian diplomat in Cuba has also been treated for hearing loss. "Global Affairs Canada spokeswoman Brianne Maxwell said Canadian officials 'are aware of unusual symptoms affecting Canadian and US diplomatic personnel and their families in Havana.'" Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a State Department briefing yesterday revealed that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States on May 23, 2017 in response to "incidents in Cuba." According to U.S. officials five U.S. diplomats were targeted by a "sonic weapon" that led to "severe hearing loss" that led to some of them canceling their tours and returning early to the United States.

Cuban state security agents have "pilfered car parts, slashed tires and smashed car windows" of U.S. diplomats in Havana and left "unwelcome 'messages' like urine and feces deposited in their homes." The reaction of disbelief and surprise in the media to this news story is shocking and reflected in the tweet below:
The government of Cuba is an outlaw regime that has a record of not only mistreating Cubans but also engaging in actions against others that should also raise concerns. The use of a "sonic weapon" would be something new, but attempting to harm a diplomat is not. U.S. diplomat Robin Meyers was subjected to cars being used against her as weapons in Cuba on February 23-24, 1996. Former Canadian ambassador to Cuba James Bartleman told The Globe and Mail today that he was "not surprised by this week’s reports, given his experience as envoy from 1981 to 1983. Halfway through his posting, a series of strange events occurred: His family dog was poisoned, a trade officer had a dead rat nailed to their door and the embassy started receiving threatening phone calls. Fed up, he called out the Cuban government."

Consider some of what the Castro regime has been doing in recent years:
Cuban intelligence agents who have murdered nonviolent dissidents and engaged in promoting terrorism abroad are more than capable of harming diplomats and should not be a surprise. What is shocking is that many journalists are and should know better. Then again looking at what has happened with the shuttering of the Institute for Cuban and Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami to get along with the Castro regime we should also not be surprised at the ignorance about the nature of the dictatorship in Cuba.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

US expelled 2 Cuban diplomats in May for actions against US diplomats in Havana

Were U.S. diplomats targeted and harmed by a sonic weapon in Havana?
Spokesperson Heather Nauert in a State Department briefing today revealed that two Cuban diplomats were expelled from the United States on May 23, 2017 in response to "incidents in Cuba." Cuban diplomats have had a checkered history in their postings overseas and reducing their number on U.S. soil is a positive development. In Cuba the totalitarian state security apparatus spies on everyone and carries out active measures against both foreign and domestic actors. According to U.S. officials five U.S. diplomats were targeted by a "sonic weapon" that led to "severe hearing loss" that led to some of them canceling their tours and returning early to the United States.

Cubans have played hardball before. U.S. diplomat Robin Meyers was subjected to cars being used against her as weapons by state security agents on February 23-24, 1996. The Miami Herald reported on it on November 24, 1996 after she had been expelled from Cuba:
"On Friday, Feb. 23, she was driving home from the U.S. interests section when a white Soviet-built Lada nearly sideswiped her car. She wrote off the near-miss to faulty brakes. Then it happened again. And again. She doubled back to the mission and had a U.S. security agent escort her home. The next day, she left for work, comfortably sandwiched between two U.S. escort cars. But another Lada, stuffed with her now-familiar baby sitters, tried to break into the chain of cars. She fled through an intersection on a changing light. The Lada tried to follow but was too late, and was slammed by an oncoming car."
This type of arranged accident was an innovation of the East German spy agency, known as the Stasi, who trained the Cuban State Security service known as "G2" and one of its standard tactics. Diplomats working in Cuba should not underestimate the dictatorship nor should those visiting the island for recreation or business.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Message to friends in Venezuela on the latest unfolding events

My prayers and thoughts are with the Venezuelan people in their struggle for freedom.

Yesterday at the Torch of Friendship on August 5, 2017
 As an outsider I do not pretend to know the intricacies of what is taking place on the ground in Venezuela but there are patterns and historical trends with regards to conflicts with parallels to what is taking place in your country today that alarm me.

Voices now gaining traction in Venezuela make the argument that violent resistance is now necessary to deal with the new political reality. Century of data and recent example of Syria shows belief that abandoning nonviolence for violence will speed up change is mistaken.

Non-violent expert Gene Sharp offers the following advice to a non-violent movement when military units start to defect or mutiny. Maintain non-violence, do not organize soldiers to use violence against the remaining army. That is suicidal.  Use the mutinous soldiers to persuade the rest of the soldiers also to mutiny - take the army away then the regime will come tumbling down.

Furthermore, among some Venezuelans, there is the mistaken idea that Cubans did not fight against the imposition of communist rule in Cuba. Cuban author and artist Juan Abreu who advocates violent resistance in Venezuela also does not sugarcoat the difficulty nor the fact that Cubans failed to overthrow the Castros despite a formidable armed resistance that lasted six years (1960-66) because the communists are experts in violence, torture and rewriting history.

Dear friends in Venezuela I offer this testimony with humility and ask you to take it into consideration.

Chavez and Maduro's Trashing the Rule of Law: The Judge and the Attorney General

The Chavez regime slandered, imprisoned, raped and tortured a Judge. Now the Attorney General who participated in the attempted coverup faces the same dangers for her dissent.
Judge María Lourdes Afiuni and Attorney General Luisa Marvelia Ortega Día

The international media is finally describing Venezuela's government for what it is: a brutal dictatorship. Mercosur booted Venezuela out  But Venezuela has been a dictatorship for some time and the dismantling of democratic institutions was already far advances in 2009.  Venezuela was suspended from MERCOSUR on August 5, 2017 after the breakdown of the democratic order and non-compliance with the protocol of Ushuaia. Nevertheless the end of any semblance of an independent judiciary was seen in Venezuela eight years ago.

Judge María Lourdes Afiuni ruled that a near three year pretrial detention ran afoul of the two year limit prescribed in Venezuelan law and authorized the conditional liberty of Eligio Cedeño, a banker accused of corruption on December 10, 2009.  The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions had already declared Cedeño's detention arbitrary. The judge was detained that same day, ironically on human rights day, and jailed. 

The next day President Hugo Chávez called the Judge a "bandit"who should be jailed for thirty years. Days later Chávez reaffirmed that Judge Afiuni was "correctly jailed" and advocated that she be sentenced to 35 years in prison. She was charged by prosecutors in January of 2010 with "corruption, abuse of authority, and “favoring evasion of justice.” Prosecutors provided no credible evidence to substantiate the charges." She was held for over a year in prison during which "Judge Afiuni was raped and suffered physical and psychological violence, including death threats from other inmates." She was then transferred to house arrest. In June of 2013, Judge Afiuni was released on bail, while her trial, which began in 2012, continued. In 2013 her house arrest was lifted as she began a battle against cancer. Chavez died on March 5, 2013 but the trial against the judge began to suffer delays, which apparently violate Venezuelan law continuing to the present day.  Judge Afiuni is barred from practicing law, leaving the country, or using her bank account or social networks. 
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz entered the controversy on this case denying that the Judge Afiuni had been sexually assaulted, tortured and mistreated by agents of the Chavez regime. This whitewash provoked a response from the Judge. According to Afiuni's Attorney Thelma Fernández on June 30, 2015  Judge María Lourdes Afiuni broke her silence explaining to the court "how the INOF guards and officials of the Ministry of Justice sexually abused her and destroyed her vagina, anus and bladder." ... "The evidence of ill treatment, torture and sexual abuse against Afiuni is contained in the case file and at the United Nations; for this reason, experts, rapporteurs and commissioners of international organizations have issued so many statements in relation to the case. It is not that they are biased, as hinted and said by Luisa Ortega Díaz. It is just that all the evidence confirms all that happened to the judge."

The situation has deteriorated even further under Nicolas Maduro to the point that Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz who had been the Attorney General of Venezuela from December 13, 2007 until August 5, 2017 would not grant a blank check for the Venezuelan regime's outlaw behavior.  Now she is facing the same dangers as Judge Afiuni. On June 29, 2017 Maduro's rubber stamp Supreme Court froze her assets and barred her from leaving the country due to "alleged serious misconduct." Attorney General Ortega. Hours earlier according to a June 29, 2017 Voice of America article: she charged the Maduro regime with "state terrorism" and promised to "defend the constitution and democracy even with my life, I swear." She had also been critical of Maduro's constituent assembly and the irregularities surrounding the vote that brought into existence. The new assembly on August 5, 2017 removed her from office even though her term was supposed to last until 2021

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a precautionary measure for Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz on August 3, 2017 citing their concern "that Ms. Luisa Ortega Díaz and her family are in a serious and urgent situation as their rights to life and integrity face an imminent risk of irreparable harm." The IACHR goes into greater detail on how they arrived at their decision: 
"In making this decision, the Commission identified the role and visibility of Attorney General Ortega as the operator of justice in denouncing violations of human rights and of alleged violations of the legal and constitutional framework, that are allegedly a consequence of the processes related to the Constituent Assembly. Among the risk factors taken into account by the Commission are various statements and stigmatizing pronouncements, some from high ranking officials, which had linked the Attorney General with “terrorist” acts, qualifying her as a traitor to the government; the alleged persecution aimed at removing her from office and reducing her powers; as well as the threats that had been made against her outside the Office of the Public Prosecutor, with the presence of an armed person on one occasion."
The rule of law in Venezuela ended in  2009 when Judge Afiuni was arrested, raped and tortured for following the law and running afoul of the whims of then President Hugo Chavez. The continuing arbitrary nature of the Maduro regime and its escalating violence against nonviolent dissidents should indicate to reasonable observers that former
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Díaz is in great danger.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

For freedom in Venezuela and in Cuba: Non-violence is solidarity in action

"The tragedy was not the clamor of the bad people, but the silence of the good people." - Martin Luther King Jr.

On  8/5/94 Cubans marched for freedom in Cuba and were shot at by secret police
Twenty three years ago hundreds of Cubans took to the streets of Havana chanting freedom and called for the end of the Castro regime. The Clinton Administration had by that time begun to reach out to the Castro regime and push for a normalization of relations with Cuba. This was at a time when many thought the Cuban dictatorship was on its last legs. Despite the shoot down of two U.S. based planes over international airspace on February 24, 1996 killing three U.S. citizens and one resident by 2000 President Clinton had shaken hands with Fidel Castro and opened cash and carry trade with the Cuban dictatorship.

On 7/30/17 Venezuelans marched for freedom in Venezuela and were shot by snipers
Twenty three years later we gathered in Miami united for liberty in Venezuela. The Castro regime following years of engagement with President Clinton and President Obama has increased its influence throughout the Western Hemisphere. The OAS Secretary Luis Almagro testified that there are 15,000 Cubans in Venezuela acting as an occupying force.  Venezuela in 2017 faces the real possibility of completing its transformation into Cuba 2.0 thanks to the indifference and collaboration of its neighbors, including the United States under the previous Administration. Over a 100 Venezuelans have been shot and killed by the Maduro regime's repressive apparatus over the past four months of protests.

The time for petitions and conflict resolution are over in both Cuba and Venezuela.

The struggle in Cuba has been going on for more than 58 years and Venezuela's now for 18 years.  While reading Michael N. Nagler's book, "The Nonviolence Handbook: A Guide for Practical Action" read a passage that struck me with regards to the struggles now taking place in these two countries:
"Conflicts escalate when they are not resolved, and if they are left untended they can rapidly get out of control." From the nonviolence point of view, the intensity of a conflict is not necessarily a question of how many guns or how many people are involved (the same metric would work for a quarrel between lovers as between nations); it is primarily about how far dehumanization has proceeded. If someone no longer listens to you, is calling you names or is labeling you, it’s probably too late for petitions. In terms of knowing how to respond, we can conveniently think of this escalation in three stages that call for distinct sets of responses. Let’s call these three stages Conflict Resolution, Satyagraha (active nonviolent resistance), and—hopefully this is rare, but it helps to know it exists—Ultimate Sacrifice (see Figure)."
In both countries the regimes in power call those who oppose them: worms, and fascists. In the recent past sectors of the political opposition in Venezuela sat down to dialogue with a government whose leadership rejects the legitimacy of the opposition but used the process for tactical purposes to slow the imposition of international sanctions while they continue to engage in systematic human rights violations. In Cuba, the opposition is not only not recognized but is also illegal. In Venezuela the purpose of the Constituent Assembly that was brought into existence on July 30, 2017 with escalating repression, including government snipers shooting unarmed demonstrators in the head, and tampering with voting machines in a massive fraud is to make the opposition illegal. This will turn Venezuela into a second Cuba.

Conflict resolution works if when you register a complaint the other side listens to you and although not sympathetic to you, recognizes your shared humanity. The next stage, active nonviolent resistance, is necessary when one can not reach one's adversary through reason, and involves taking on suffering: civil disobedience, strikes, standing up to physical abuse, and the full gamut of nonviolent tactics. Powerful elements within the Venezuelan resistance understand this and have put it into practice. Over social media the work of Gene Sharp is summarized in 140 characters: "Civil disobedience is an attitude that must be taken personally. By reducing support to the factors of power, these weaken and fall" and translated to Spanish along with more detailed images.
Unfortunately, the time for conflict resolution in both countries has long passed and in the case of Venezuela the democratic resistance is engaged in Satyagraha via mass demonstrations and many young people are also risking their lives continuing to march and protest the abuses and failures of the Maduro regime. 

In Cuba there has been a nonviolent opposition that for decades has engaged in projects and campaigns: both constructive and resisting the regime paying a high price and risking all. These oppressive regimes thrive on violence and hatred and seek to provoke it in both their supporters and opponents in a spiral of dehumanization that entrenches an unjust and exploitative system with deep structural violence.

The failure of the international community to address these profound injustices effectively now threaten to engulf and destabilize the entire region.  Unfortunately this means that both in the Cuban and Venezuelan scenarios the conflict has escalated to the level of "ultimate sacrifice." We are witnessing nonviolent activists murdered by both regimes in an international environment that for too many years allowed them to do so with impunity. In Venezuela over the past

Nevertheless those of us living abroad must protest and show our solidarity for those who continue to carry on the struggle in Cuba, Venezuela and other countries going through this type of struggle. This is why we gathered today at the Torch of Friendship with our Venezuelan brothers and sisters engaged in an existential struggle for the future of their homeland. Our prayers are with them.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Free Venezuelans: The case for continuing nonviolent resistance

The strategic wisdom of nonviolent resistance

Venezuela today
These are desperate times in Venezuela with an imploding economy, political violence and a regime bent on consolidating an already brutal dictatorship. Today the illegitimate Constituent Assembly that Maduro and his lackeys have granted supreme powers over all other branches of government began to rewrite the 1999 constitution. It was "elected" last weekend in balloting marred by regime organized violence and tampering with the vote. Among its 500-plus-members are Maduro's wife and son, and is led by Delcy Rodriguez, Maduro's former foreign minister.  At the time of the writing of this blog the Mayor of Metropolitan Caracas Antonio Ledezma was returned to house arrest after being grabbed up in the middle of the night, on early Tuesday but opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez remains jailed along with 600 other political prisoners.
There are voices gaining traction in Venezuela making the argument that violent resistance is now necessary to deal with the new political reality in the country. A century of data and the recent examples of Libya and Syria indicates that they are mistaken.

Furthermore, among some Venezuelans, there is the mistaken idea that Cubans did not fight against the imposition of communist rule in Cuba. Cuban author and artist Juan Abreu who advocates violent resistance in Venezuela also does not sugarcoat the difficulty nor the fact that Cubans failed to overthrow the Castros despite a formidable armed resistance because the communists are experts in violence and torture:
As I told you yesterday, Venezuelans, about civil war, that monstrous thing, I should be honest with you; that war guarantees you nothing. I should also warn you that you are going up against an organization made up of assassins who are the most sadistic and brutal on this planet. You should know that in Cuba there was a civil war as well. When the Castros came to power, Cuban citizens organized a formidable armed resistance in the cities and in the mountains. A failure. It was laid to waste.
You Venezuelans should know that the thugs of the Castro secret police (who are directing the repression against you Venezuelans) are brutal assassins and merciless. You should take into account that if you do confront them, there will be blood and death.
All I will say is that one of the methods used by the Castro DSE (the G-2 back in those days) consisted of tying anti-Castro insurgents by their feet to the back bumper of an automobile and dragging them through coral rock on the Cuban coast until all that was left was an unidentifiable mass of human flesh. I am mentioning just one of the atrocious tortures among the many atrocious torture methods used by the killing machine of the Castro repressive organs that you will be going up against.
The Castro enemy is barbaric and cruel. Yes, that is even more reason to kill them, I agree. But you should know what you are going up against.
The violent nature of this resistance made it easier for the communist dictatorship in Cuba to consolidate its totalitarian rule and "hermetically" seal the island, reinforcing the regime's false narrative that the opposition were terrorists and mercenaries, but less than a decade later a nonviolent alternative arose with the founding of the Cuban Committee for Human Rights on January 28, 1976 that the Castros could not so easily eliminate.

University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006 and there study finds “that nonviolent campaigns are more likely than violent campaigns to succeed in the face of brutal repression.”

The usual counter argument is that nonviolence would not have worked against the Nazis but history says otherwise with the successful nonviolent action of the Rosenstrasse protest carried out by German wives who successfully got their Jewish husbands back from the concentration camps in 1943. Nor does one consider the scores of violent actions that failed to dislodge the Nazi regime but only consolidated their rule despite two close calls that nearly got Adolph Hitler in 1939 and 1944.

Hitler was overthrown by the outside intervention of the Allied Powers in WWII that claimed 40 million lives. The troubling question remains what would have happened if more Germans had non-violently resisted the Third Reich, as Mohandas Gandhi had counseled in 1940.

In the case of Libya outside powers led by NATO waged a war that violently overthrew and killed the cruel despot Muammar Gaddafi. Without this outside intervention the violent uprising would have failed. However the rebels that took power turned Libya into a place now described by some as a failed state.

Syria is a cautionary tale that Venezuelans should pay close attention to. Unlike Libya the uprising against Bashar al-Assad was initially nonviolent and despite great provocations maintained a nonviolent posture that successfully placed the Syrian despot on the defensive. Unfortunately when elements of the army joined the opposition to Assad the decision was made, out of the mistaken belief that it would speed up victory, of turning to a violent resistance. On February 5, 2012 nonviolent theorist Gene Sharp gave the following advice to the opposition in Syria:
"Maintain non-violence, do not organise soldiers to use violence against the remaining army. That is suicidal. That becomes a tool - that is what the government would want you to do". ... "Use the mutinous soldiers to persuade the rest of the soldiers also to mutiny - take the army away then the regime will come tumbling down."
In an earlier interview in the United Kingdom on the BBC News program HARDtalk on January 30, 2012 Dr. Sharp said that "using violence is a stupid decision." Sadly that advise was not heeded. The end result has been the escalation of violence and fatalities in a civil war and the consolidation of rule of Bashar al-Assad today and an opposition compromised by violent terrorist elements.
The odds of violent resistance successfully transitioning to a free society are higher than that of nonviolent resistance. However nonviolence is not a magic bullet anymore than violence is. In both a violent and nonviolent struggle success is determined by the side with greater resources and better strategy and tactics. Gene Sharp, a world renowned nonviolence theoretician, offers the following advice:
"You have to learn how to do it skillfully. If you are going to fight a war violently you don't go to all the neighborhood bars and get all the guys out there and say lets go fight a war but thats about the way nonviolent struggle has been conducted over the centuries. People were improvising. They didn't know what the hell they were doing. What would make it effective? What should they be aware of? Who was this guy who was urging violence? They didn't know he was a tool of the political police. This happened in the Russian empire ... and repeatedly. It also happened I am told with the Gestapo doing that. Dictators and rulers who fear the power of people will do their damndest to defeat it and you have to know how to be smarter than they are and more courageous and more skilled in what you do."
These are dangerous and difficult times in Venezuela with a brutal regime aided by the oldest tyranny in the Western Hemisphere, the Castro dictatorship, to consolidate the dictatorship in Caracas. At the same time the vast majority of Venezuelans oppose this government that is becoming increasingly illegitimate and there is an organized opposition. The elements to achieve victory are present but it requires thought, analysis and sustained action.

Those of us outside of Venezuela can demonstrate our solidarity by sharing their communications, providing humanitarian assistance, and standing up in protests of support for the Venezuelan democratic opposition to let them know they are not alone. This Saturday, August 5, 2017 at 11:00am Miami will unite for a free Venezuela at the Torch of Freedom and all people of good will should be there to demonstrate their support.