Thursday, February 22, 2018

Remembering some of the victims of Cuban communism: Génesis Carmona, Venezuelan fashion model, beauty queen, and college student

"Whoever destroys a single life is considered by Scripture to have destroyed the whole world, and whoever saves a single life is considered by Scripture to have saved the whole world." - Mishnah  (1135-1204)
Génesis Cristina Carmona Tovar, September 20, 1991 –  February 19, 2014
Some psychologists argue that as the number of victims increase into the hundreds, and thousands that compassion collapses out of the human fear of being overwhelmed. Soviet dictator Josef Stalin put it more succinctly: "When one man dies it's a tragedy. When thousands die it's statistics." In the case of Cuba the communist regime has killed tens of thousands, and many have become numb in the face of this horror. Therefore on the 100th anniversary of the founding of the first communist regime in Russia, that caused so much harm around the world, will focus on an infinitesimal sampling of some of the victims of Cuban communism.

The fifteenth entry remembers a young martyr: a Venezuelan fashion model, beauty queen, and college student who was shot in the head on February 18, 2014 while nonviolently protesting the Maduro regime in Venezuela and died of her injury on February 19, 2014.

Previous entries in this series were about Cubans trying to change the system nonviolently, Cubans who tried to leave the island, a student shot to death for walking down the wrong sidewalk in Havana, a young Ethiopian woman murdered in a red terror in her homeland for unknown reasons in 1978, and the eleventh entry three young black men executed by firing squad in 2003 for having hijacked a ferry in an effort to reach the United States. The thirteenth entry remembered two young men shot by firing squad in La Cabaña on April 18, 1961. They fourteenth entry remembered a former seminarian, who became a nonviolent human rights defender in a movement founded by lay Catholics, and was killed together with the movement's founding leader on July 22, 2012

22 year old fashion model, beauty queen, and college student shot in the head.
 In this entry one explores how a 22 year old woman engaged in peaceful protest in her country was shot in the head and killed by pro-regime forces and how her death is linked to the Castro regime. 

Génesis Cristina Carmona Tovar was marching at approximately 4:00 pm on Tuesday February 18, 2014, near Cedeño Avenue and the intersection of Carabobo, when  a group of masked gunmen on motorcycles opened fire on the demonstrators. Génesis was shot in the head in the left occipital region. She was with her sister Alejandra Carmona at the moment it happened. Alejandra in a radio interview said "I was with her, when the motorized units (of the Government arrived), we fled running. We were stopped on a street corner, looking up and then suddenly she fell."  

Genesis Carmona is evacuated on a motorcycle after being shot on February 18, 2014.
According to VOXXI the "22-year-old was rushed in a motorcycle to the Medical Center Guerra Mendez in Valencia, where she was operated and kept in intensive care. Less than 24 hours later on 12:14 p.m., the doctors announced that she had died from her injury. 

The headline in the February 20, 2014 edition of People Magazine read " Venezuelan Beauty Pageant Winner Killed in Anti-Government Protest." She was a model who had won the Miss Tourism Carabobo beauty pageant in 2013. On her Twitter account Génesis described herself as “friendly, but not stupid!” and “passionate about life.” She was studying marketing at Center Technological University (UNITEC) and was in her last year of study.   

Jorge Ramos of Univision interviewed Gabriel Cegarra,  the young man who was holding Génesis on the back of the motorcycle as they hurried to get her to the hospital. Below courtesy of John Sexton of Breitbart is a translation of an excerpt of the interview:

Ramos: The images of the students that have lost their lives in the protests in Venezuela are impressive because, in the majority of cases, they have been shot at and they have no way of defending themselves. To these images we add this impressive photo: beauty queen Genesis Carmona being carried away as she was dying. The student is named Gabriel Cegarra, who had her in his arms to try to save her life. He joins us now via satellite from Valencia, Carabobo state. Gabriel, thank you for speaking with us. What happened that day? Where were you?
Gabriel Cegarra: We were in Cedeño Ave, Valencia. We were protesting there– the protest concentration was there. There was a large group of us there protesting normally, peacefully. All of a sudden we began to see motorcycles on the north side of Cedeño Ave. That is a steep street, and at the top of the street we saw motorcycles with, um, they were armed and over there. At first they were not doing anything, they were just there
concentrated, and we were concentrated in our part and we took note of each other. Then, all of the sudden, there were gunshots, there were three rounds of gunshots. In the third, unfortunately, a bullet hit her in the head.
Ramos: The government said, without proof, that the shots came from the opposition group itself. Do you think the shots came from an armed Chavista group?
GC: Yes, because they were the only ones who were armed. We
do our protesting with a simple tricolor hat, a white shirt– which was what we
organized for that day—
Ramos: So the official version from the government is not true from your point of view? The bullets came from Chavista groups, not the opposition? This is very important.
GC: Not from the opposition, because among ourselves, I don’t think we are there to kill each other. We were just there peacefully protesting. The motorcycles that were shooting, you could see they were armed and they had red shirts, some were black striped, but there were people with red shirts.
Ramos: You already knew Genesis. At what time did you see her get shot through the head?
GC: Yes, I knew Genesis, she is my– was my “buddy” for all life. She was my friend for five years. I realized that she was shot in the head when… I heard the gunshots from where I was, I ducked, and then when I see that she is leaning on a friend’s arms.
The friend brought her to me– it was a short route, about 5 meters, something like that– and I see that when I touch her with her left arm, which I put behind my neck, I started to feel something cold on my arm, and a doctor who was there at the protests also told me, “get on your bike and get help, she’s been shot in the head.”
Ramos: That is precisely what you did. That image and that photograph traveled the world. When you were carrying her with you on the motorcycle, she was still alive, right?
GC: Yes, she was conscious.
Ramos: She was conscious. Could she talk? Did she say something?
GC: No, she didn’t speak to me but her eyes were open. With her right hand she was pulling my shirt, as you can see in the image, and with the left hand she was pulling the shirt of the motorcycle driver.
Ramos: What did you tell her?
GC: Stay still, everything will be fine, I would do everything possible I could to arrive quickly so they could treat her, not to worry, that nothing was going to happen.
Ramos: Then you arrived at the hospital. When did you find out she had died?
GC: I found out yesterday, Wednesday, around 12:50– I was making some declarations and was not at the clinic at the moment, but I got a message simply saying she had died. It was really very sad, that moment; reading that message was nothing good. I didn’t expect that to happen.
Génesis Carmona's aunt, Martha Baron, who lives in Calgary spoke out in English concerning her nieces death on February 24, 2014 to the Calgary CBC: "I would like her to be remembered as a brave girl that died for her country. That's the only way I want her to be remembered." 
Her last four tweets were re-tweets from others but give an insight into this young woman's state of mind and are reproduced below:

The first RT is from Leopoldo Lopez announcing that he would be on CNN in Spanish and asking for a RT which she obliged. The second from VVSincensura said that "the opposition united should defend Leopoldo Lopez and Maria Corina Machado before the intention of the government to jail them. The third from Reinaldo dos Santos gave technical advise stating "If they drop Twitter for Venezuela use a "hotspot shield" which is private navigation without restrictions. Spread the word." The last retweet from Evo Morales (not the president of Bolivia) said: "Stay with the one who tells the best stories. One day they will tell yours."  

Castro regime's man in Venezuela, Ramiro Valdez with Chavez and Maduro

Castro regime's repressive role in Venezuela
In 2007 Chávez had declared that Cuba and Venezuela were a single nation. “Deep down,” he said, “we are one single government.”  When Hugo Chavez died in 2013 the succession to Nicolas Maduro was planned in Havana. The Maduro regime is a puppet regime controlled by Havana.

The name of this "single nation" is Cubazuela and is a term that has been used by mainstream press publications such as The Wall Street Journal. The consequences to the people of Venezuela are well known. Violence has escalated during the Chavez-Maduro era to levels never seen before. There is widespread hunger now in Venezuela. Civil liberties and the rule of law are rapidly disappearing, replaced by the Cuban model.
In addition to domestic repressive forces there is a foreign presence heavily embedded in the Venezuelan military and intelligence services. The head of the opposition National Assembly of Venezuela on May 15, 2016 complained, over social media, of the presence of 60 Cuban officers. This included a Cuban general, who he identified by the last name Gregorich, who had a leadership role that included issuing orders to Venezuelan troops. Capitol Hill Cubans identified the Cuban General as Raul Acosta Gregorich. 

Cuban involvement in Venezuela reaches into the highest levels of the military and intelligence apparatus. In February of 2010  Ramiro Valdes, then age 77, was hired "as a consultant for that country's energy crisis" but his expertise is not in energy. He is viewed by some Cuba experts as "the No. 3 man in the Cuban hierarchy" and the architect of Cuba's repressive machinery. Afro-Cuban scholar Carlos Moore offers the following background information on Commander Valdez :

"Ramiro Valdez was an inflexible, totalitarian and brutal person. He was the most feared man in Cuba. The repressive policies of the regime were crafted by him. Valdez struck fear into the hearts of Cubans (even revolutionary ones). Today, he apparently continues to be the same dogmatic, sectarian and brutal person he was at the height of his power."
 The use of political terror to impose totalitarian control is straight out of the Castro regime's playbook, and the Cuban dictatorship, if not the material authors of the murder of a high profile figure such as Génesis Cristina Carmona Tovar, are the intellectual authors of this extrajudicial execution.

Four years later, those responsible for her killing remain at large, and her mother, María Eugenia Tovar, as well as her sister, Alejandra Carmona fled to the United States in December of 2014 and remain there to the present day.

Meanwhile the situation in Venezuela continues to deteriorate and Cuba is making it worse.

Nicolas Maduro and Raul Castro


Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Eight years ago on February 23, 2010 prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike in Cuba

"Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]" - Orlando Zapata Tamayo, letter smuggled out April of 2004*

Orlando Zapata Tamayo 1967 - 2010
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a human rights defender who was unjustly imprisoned in the Spring of 2003 and was tortured by Cuban prison officials and state security agents over the next six years and ten months. He died on February 23, 2010 following a prolonged hunger strike, aggravated by prison guards refusing him water in an effort to break his spirit. He is a victim of Cuban communism

Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who was killed under suspicious circumstances on July 22, 2012, issued a statement the same day that Orlando died and appeared in a photograph holding up a photocopy of the martyred human rights defender name and image. 
"Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died this afternoon, February 23, 2010, after suffering many indignities, racist slights, beatings and abuse by prison guards and State Security. Zapata was killed slowly over many days and many months in every prison in which he was confined. Zapata was imprisoned for denouncing human rights violations and for daring to speak openly of the Varela Project in Havana's Central Park. He was not a terrorist, or conspirator, or used violence. Initially he was sentenced to three years in prison, but after successive provocations and maneuvers staged by his executioners, he was sentenced to more than thirty years in prison." 
Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas with photocopy image of Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Remembering Orlando Zapata
Orlando Zapata Tamayo was born in Santiago, Cuba on May 15, 1967. He was by vocation a brick layer and also a human rights activist, a member of the Movimiento Alternativa Republicana, Alternative Republican Movement, and of the Consejo Nacional de Resistencia Cívica, National Civic Resistance Committee. Orlando gathered signatures for the Varela Project, a citizen initiative to amend the Cuban constitution using legal means with the aim of bringing Cuba in line with international human rights standards.

     Amnesty International had documented how Orlando had been arrested several times in the past. For example he was temporarily detained on 3 July 2002 and 28 October 2002. In November of 2002 after taking part in a workshop on human rights in the central Havana park, José Martí, he and eight other government opponents were arrested and later released. He was also arrested on December 6, 2002 along with fellow prisoners of conscience Oscar Elías Biscet and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo.  
     Dr. Biscet just released from prison a month earlier had sought to form a grassroots project for the promotion of human rights called "Friends of Human Rights." State security prevented them from entering the home of Raúl Arencibia Fajardo, Oscar Biscet, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes and 12 others held a sit-in in the street in protest and chanted "long live human rights" and "freedom for political prisoners." They were then arrested and taken to the Tenth Unit of the National Revolutionary Police, Décima Unidad de La Policía Nacional Revolucionaria (PNR), in Havana.
    Orlando Zapata Tamayo was released three months later on March 8, 2003, but Oscar Elias Biscet, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo remained imprisoned. On the morning of March 20, 2003 whilst taking part in a fast at the Fundación Jesús Yánez Pelletier, Jesús Yánez Pelletier Foundation, in Havana, to demand the release of Oscar Biscet and the other political prisoners. Orlando was taken to the Villa Marista State Security Headquarters. 
     He was moved around several prisons, including Quivicán Prison, Guanajay Prison, and Combinado del Este Prison in Havana. Where according to Amnesty International on October 20, 2003 Orlando was dragged along the floor of Combinado del Este Prison by prison officials after requesting medical attention, leaving his back full of lacerations. Orlando managed to smuggle a letter out following a brutal beating it was published in April of 2004:
"My dear brothers in the internal opposition in Cuba. I have many things to say to you, but I did not want to do it with paper and ink, because I hope to go to you one day when our country is free without the Castro dictatorship. Long live human rights, with my blood I wrote to you so that this be saved as evidence of the savagery we are subjected to that are victims of the Pedro Luis Boitel political prisoners [movement]."*
On May 18, 2004 Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Virgilio Marante Güelmes, and Raúl Arencibia Fajardo were each sentenced to three years in prison for contempt for authority, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest in a one-day trial. Orlando Zapata Tamayo would continue his rebelliousness and his non-violent resistance posture while in prison and suffer numerous beatings and new charges of disobedience and disrespect leading to decades added to his prison sentence in eight additional trials.

 Protests for Orlando Zapata Tamayo continue

Eight years have passed but the martyred Cuban human rights defender has not been forgotten. From the beginning the regime sought to put down and silence protests and acts of remembrance for him, but failed. In March of 2010 at the second Geneva Summit for Human Rights former prisoner of conscience Jose Gabriel Ramon Castillo testified to what had happened to Orlando Zapata. In Norway, regime agents became violent and created international controversy after a Cuban diplomat bit a young Norwegian-Cuban woman for trying to record her mom engaged in a protest remembering Orlando Zapata Tamayo in front of the Cuban Embassy in Oslo in May of 2010.

On September 30, 2010 the Canadian punk rock band released a song linking what happened to Orlando Zapata Tamayo to the indifference of Canadian tourists visiting Cuba asking the question: Where were you the day Orlando Zapata died? On May 10, 2012 the Free Cuba Foundation published a video accompanying the song, after receiving the band's permission, with images and song lyrics.

On 2/19/2018 twenty activists remember Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Four days prior to marking eight years to the day that Orlando Zapata died, activists inside Cuba took to protest in the streets with banners remembering the courageous and martyred human rights activist.
The Castro regime did all it could to eliminate the memory of this humble and good man. The dictatorship failed.

*Source: "Queridos hermanos míos de la oposición interna de Cuba", escribió Zapata en su misiva, "tengo muchas cosas que decirles, pero no he querido hacerlo por papel y tinta, pues espero ir a ustedes un día cuando nuestra patria sea libre y sin dictadura castrista. Vivan los derechos humanos, con mi sangre les escribí, para que la guarden como parte del salvajismo de que somos víctima el presidio político Pedro Luis Boitel". - "Golpiza y celda tapiada para Orlando Zapata"  La Habana, 22 de abril 2004 (María López, Lux Info Press /

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Watch the 10th edition of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy over live stream

"Truth-tellers arrive at the United Nations, unite to confront dictatorships." - The Geneva Summit

Geneva Summit for Democracy and Human Rights 2018
Yesterday at the United Nations Human Rights Council a group of human rights defenders and victims of repression gathered to denounces what is going on in their respective countries. Today, beginning at 9:00am and for entire day these activists will be gathered along with hundreds of registered participants to attend and participate in the 10th edition of the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Watch it here over live stream, and get involved providing your commentary, questions and hashtags over social media. Please use the hashtag #GS18 and #GenevaSummit so that your comments can be readily found and share the live stream link with others.

Over the past couple of days have taken a look back to the beginning when the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy came into existence and also speculate on its future.  Today will look at some of the highlights from yesterday, from around the world and look forward to commenting over twitter during the event. Former Venezuelan prisoner of conscience Antonio Ledezma tweeted: "Three years ago I was forcibly abducted for thinking differently from the narco-regime of Venezuela. I will not stop my struggle to defend the freedom and human rights of our Venezuelan brothers." UN Watch highlighted the plight of Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet.






Centrist Democrat International calls for the release of Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet

The Centrist Democrat International, an international organization of  Christian Democratic political parties demonstrated its solidarity with Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet on February 19, 2018 over twitter. Below the text is reproduced with the tweet at the end of the blog entry.

Resolution on the EU-Cuba Agreement and the release of Eduardo Cardet

The Centrist Democrat International (CDI-IDC )cautiously welcomes the entry into force on November 1st, 2017, of the Agreement on Political Dialogue and Cooperation between Cuba and the European Union, aimed at strengthening the political dialogue, cooperation and sectorial dialogue, including commercial agreements. This agreement should provide the opening of a new page in relations between the EU and Cuba.

Calls on both sides to act with absolute coherence, and assure the effective and practical implementation of this agreement for dialogue. Denounces the interference of Cuba in other countries such as Venezuela and Colombia.

Emphasizes the need for the International Community, civil society and the Cuban people to closely observe the practical realization of these agreements so that they will benefit the Cuban people as soon as possible.

Recalls that this dialogue and previous agreements should always include full respect for human rights, freedom and the rule of law. These principles should be on top of the agenda of the High Representative of the EU for External Relations and Security Policies, Federica Mogherini, given that the pillars of democracy such as freedom of association, a multi-party system, freedom of the press, the existence of political prisoners, freedom of commerce, the separation of power are still not fully respected, and that a dialogue of this type cannot be sustained with countries under dictatorship.

Denounces the fact that in recent years there has been an increase in the number of political prisoners to 140, the 4821 arbitrary detentions (source Amnesty International), acts of physical aggression, of hostility and of repudiation. We demand the immediate and unconditional liberation of the coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) of Cuba and human rights defender, Eduardo Cardet, arbitrarily detained, recognized as political prisoner and sentenced to three years of prison, stressing our preoccupation with his fragile state of health as a result of deplorable penitentiary conditions.

We therefore urge that he be attended urgently by health workers of his free choice.

Requests to support the civil right to return and live in Cuba for the MCL’s spokesman, Regis Iglesias, former political prisoner of conscience and for of all Cuban exiles as well as the recognition of Cuban citizens to elect and be elected, as demanded by the initiative "Un Cubano, Un Voto" (“One Cuban, one vote).

Urges to support the initiatives that civil society and the opposition forces of the country demand towards peaceful transition to a more democratic political regime in Cuba and the recovery of civil rights to guarantee the participation of all Cubans in the construction of a path towards freedom and reconciliation.

Urges all members of the IDC-CDI to deliver the resolution to the Embassies of Cuba of their respective countries urging the release of the prisoners of conscience.

Budapest 16/02/2018

Monday, February 19, 2018

Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy at 10 years: Looking forward

"The world is in greater peril from those who tolerate or encourage evil than from those who actually commit it." - Albert Einstein

The 10th Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy convenes in Switzerland tomorrow on February 20, 2018 at 9:00am and is open to the public. The opening address will be given by Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), who has revived the relevance of the OAS by calling attention to the unfolding crisis in Venezuela and taking leadership in pursuing solutions.

There is still much more to do.

Over the past decade human rights have been in decline worldwide and democracy in recession. Long time democracies, such as Venezuela, and Turkey have slid into dictatorship. Communist China is ascendant offering an alternative development path without freedom.

In 2013 I was thinking of the failures of states and the Human Rights Council to defend and protect human rights. Now with the Oxfam scandal realize that even NGOs can also fail abysmally.
 When even Amnesty International gets caught up in scandal, shoddy dealings and violating its own commitment to freedom of expression. One looks around at the crisis of institutions: international organizations, government, civil society, and religious institutions all with scandal and challenges.

Andrew MacLeod, who was chief of operations at the United Nation’s Emergency Coordination Center, estimated in The Times on February 14, 2018 that UN staff in the past decade carried out 60,000 rapes "with 3,300 pedophiles working in the organization and its agencies." The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) is in the midst of a scandal with former UNICEF consultant Peter Newell who was jailed for raping a 13 year old boy.

The international human rights consensus has been shattered while contradictions have emerged that threaten its very foundations.

Restoring the dynamic tension to the human rights conversation
In 1961 Amnesty International was founded by Peter Benenson and consisted of a board of trustees that included all the major British political parties: Labour, Conservative, Liberal and religions: Roman Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, Jewish and Humanist.  

If human rights are to regain their relevance and end its worldwide decline then all parties (and this includes religions) must be invited to the table and not censored beforehand because it does not serve a particular political agenda. Furthermore the right to life, enshrined in both Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in Article 1 of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man should apply to all, at all stages of life. Competing rights claims need to be weighed and measured carefully, but recognizing the transcendent importance of the person. 

Finally, human rights defenders instead of focusing on what divides us by race, sex, class, gender, sexual orientation, ability, and religion should seek to recognize our common humanity with a focus on the dignity of the person. Identity politics is a dangerous and divisive dead end.

The change for the better begins with each one of us and the challenge to be better and to do better. This also means a return to first principles and a rejection of identity politics. Everyone must be welcome to the conversation regardless of background and ideas and arguments should rule the day.  

It is time for self-examination and a reawakening to the consensus achieved 70 years ago in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on December 10, 1948. The Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy is a space where this conversation is taking place and can lead to important and positive changes over the next decade and beyond.