CUBA BRIEF: Family, Freedom and the Oswaldo Payá Prize, 21st Anniversary of Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, Appeasement Never Works

The Washington Post Editorial: A brave act in Cuba deserves American support

Diario de Cuba: Family, Freedom and the Oswaldo Payá Prize by Boris González Arenas

National Review: Appeasement Never Works by George Weigel

NBC6: Mourners Remember 21st Anniversary of Brothers to the Rescue Tragic Flight

The Jerusalem Post: One Israeli killed and eight injured in car accident in Cuba by Laura Sigal

The Washington Post, February 24, 2017

The Post’s View Opinion

A brave act in Cuba deserves American support

By Editorial Board February 24

BRINGING FREEDOM and democracy to totalitarian Cuba will be no easy task. Two indispensable ingredients, though, must be courage on the part of the country’s dissidents and democrats, and international solidarity with them.

Both were on display in Havana over the past week. At the center of events was Rosa María Payá Acevedo, daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, a recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of thought who lost his life in a still-unexplained 2012 car crash. Ms. Payá decided to pay tribute to her father by awarding a human rights prize in his name and chose as the first recipient Luis Almagro, the Uruguayan secretary general of the Organization of American States, who has distinguished himself through forthright condemnation of repression in Cuba’s authoritarian ally Venezuela. Ms. Payá invited former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, former Chilean education minister Mariana Aylwin (daughter of a former president) and Martin Palous, a former Czech ambassador to the United States, to attend.

Raúl Castro’s regime blocked them all from entering the country, telling Mr. Almagro that Ms. Payá’s entirely peaceful program was “anti-Cuban activity” and a “provocation.” Officials also detained journalists attempting to cover the planned ceremony, including Henry Constantin Ferreiro, regional vice chairman of the Inter American Press Association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. No doubt Ms. Payá’s unauthorized attempt to honor an international diplomat before such distinguished company did present the regime with an awkward choice: to tolerate an elementary exercise of her rights, and the rights of her invitees, or to deny it, and incur international political damage. How revealing of Havana’s true nature, and true priorities, that it chose the latter. Indeed, Cuba’s foreign ministry said the crackdown showed its determination not to “sacrifice its fundamental principles to maintain appearances.” 

And how revealing of the limits of U.S. “engagement” with Cuba. While these European and Latin American leaders were supporting Ms. Payá’s assertion of freedom, a bipartisan delegation of six members of Congress, headed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), were on a visit to Cuba, promoting business ties. After a visit with Mr. Castro, Mr. Leahy blandly observed that the dictator “wants reform to continue, he wants the movement forwards to continue” despite President Trump’s uncertain attitude toward the island’s government. Mr. Leahy’s spokesman told us that the delegation’s schedule was too “packed” with appointments such as the Castro meeting to allow for any contact with Ms. Payá, and declined to comment, pro or con, on the regime’s refusal to admit Mr. Almagro and company.


Diario de Cuba, February 26, 2017


Family, Freedom and the Oswaldo Payá Prize

Boris González Arenas | La Habana | 26 de Febrero de 2017

The home of Oswaldo Payá, the Cuban political leader who was killed, along with Harold Cepero, under murky circumstances in 2012, has a small living room. It is a space consonant with a house of modest dimensions, for a family whose social and political life, under normal conditions, is lived through the appropriate institutions, with no other aspiration than its domestic harmony and its children growing up healthy. It was really not large enough to constitute an appropriate site for the bestowal, on Wednesday 22 February, 2017, of the Oswaldo Payá Freedom and Life Prize, awarded to Luis Almagro, Secretary General of the OAS, and Patricio Aylwin, the former Chilean president who was given it posthumously.

Aylwin’s honor was to be collected by his daughter Mariana. But the Cuban government blocked both her and Almagro from entering the country, in addition to Mexican president Felipe Calderón, who was nominated and had accepted the invitation to attend the ceremony along with other international guests.

The Government also foiled the arrival of an unverified number of people from Cuba’s civil society, either because they were stopped directly, like Henry Constantín, or with the paramilitary cordon set up around the house in the Havana municipality of Cerro, like Diario Las Americas journalist Iván García.

The humble room still proved insufficient to accommodate the members of civil society, diplomatic corps, and foreign media who were able to get there. The chairs initially set up were stowed, and throughout the event the attendees had to stand. It was a vivid example of how, thanks to Castroism, private spaces have to assume the functions of public ones, among other uses not corresponding to them.

The remarks by Rosa María Payá on the need for freedom for Cuba, a reading by Saylí Navarro of a letter written for the occasion by Ofelia Acevedo, Oswaldo’s widow; the words of Ivan Hernández Carrillo, the only nominee who made it to the event, and a taped speech sent by Felipe Calderón to the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, dramatically demonstrated the competence and political maturity of the organizers.

Rosa Maria’s words, stating that the prizes would not be sent to their recipients, but rather stored and given to them, in that same room, in a free Cuba, expresses an aspiration instilling that small space with a universal dimension.



National Review, February 25, 2017

Appeasement Never Works

[ “Opening up” without pressure has never worked with Communist regimes. It didn’t work when the Vatican tried it in east-central Europe in the 1970s; the Ostpolitik of Pope Paul VI made matters worse for the Catholic Church in Czechoslovakia and Hungary. It didn’t work vis-à-vis the Soviet Union in the years of détente, which coincided with some of the worst Soviet assaults on human-rights activists. It hasn’t worked with China, where, as in Cuba, repression has increased in recent years. ]

by George Weigel

February 25, 2017 4:00 AM

And it’s making matters worse in Cuba. At first blush, Luis Almagro would seem an unlikely candidate for the disfavor of the current Cuban regime. A man of the political Left, he took office as the tenth secretary general of the Organization of American States in 2015, vowing to use his term of office to reduce inequality throughout the hemisphere. Yet Secretary General Almagro was recently denied a visa to enter Cuba. Why? Because he had been invited to accept an award named in honor of Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Payá, who died in 2012 in an “automobile accident” that virtually everyone not on the payroll of the Castro regime’s security services regards to this day as an act of state-sanctioned murder. Payá’s “crime” was to organize the Varela Project, a public campaign for basic civil liberties and free elections on the island prison, and he paid for it with his life. 

The regime’s refusal of a visa for the head of the OAS caused a brief flurry of comment in those shrinking parts of the commentariat that still pay attention to Cuba, now that Cuban relations with the United States have been more or less “normalized.” But there was another facet of this nasty little episode that deserves further attention: While Almagro’s entry into Cuba was being blocked, a U.S. congressional delegation was on the island and, insofar as is known, did nothing to protest the Cuban government’s punitive action against the secretary general of the OAS. 

According to a release from the office of Representative Jim McGovern (D., Mass.), the CoDel, which also included Senators Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.), Thad Cochran (R., Miss.), Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), and Tom Udall (D.,N.M.), and Representative Seth Moulton (D.,Mass.), intended to “continue the progress begun by President Obama to bring U.S.–Cuba relations into the 21st Century and explore new opportunities to promote U.S. economic development with Cuba,” including “economic opportunities for American companies in the agriculture and health sectors.” I’ve no idea whether those economic goals were advanced by this junket. What was certainly not advanced by the CoDel’s public silence on the Almagro Affair while they were in the country was the cause of a free Cuba. 


NBC6, February 24, 2017

Mourners Remember 21st Anniversary of Brothers to the Rescue Tragic Flight

Members of South Florida’s Cuban exile community will join family and friends of the four men killed during the infamous Brothers to the Rescue flight shot down over two decades ago.

Friday marks the 21st anniversary of the day where the four victims – three American citizens in Armando Alejandre, Jr., Carlos Costa, and Mario de la Pena as well as one American resident, Pablo Morales – were killed as they flew on a humanitarian mission over international waters when their plane was shot down on orders from the Cuban government.

The annual remembrance ceremony for those victims will take place at the monument to those victims located at Opa-locka Airport starting at 11 a.m.


The Jerusalem Post, February 25, 2017

One Israeli killed and eight injured in car accident in Cuba

By Laura Sigal

February 25, 2017 11:24

According to Israel Radio, the injured, all in their 60s, suffered from minor to moderate injuries. One went though surgery overnight. 

One Israeli, named as 70-year-old, Nahum Heinken from Gadera, was killed and eight others were injured in Cuba when their mini bus flipped over, the Foreign Ministry released Saturday morning.

According to Reshet Bet, the injured, all in their 60s, suffered from minor to moderate injuries. One went though surgery overnight.
Israel and Cuba have no formal diplomatic ties, and Israel and relies on the Canadian Embassy to take care of their interests in Cuba, including helping to transfer the body to Israel, according to the Foreign Ministry.

Cuba is one of the four Latin American countries with which Israel does not have formal diplomatic relations, along with Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia. Jerusalem had diplomatic relations with Cuba until 1973, when Fidel Castro broke them off when he was running for president of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Havana has since been a constant and bitter critic of Israel.