CubaBrief: Dictatorships of Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela are not at the Summit of the Americas but their dissidents are. Blinken slams Cuba, Venezuela repression at Summit

Dictatorships and their allies are complaining that they have not been invited to the IX Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles but their dissidents (those who could make it and were not barred by their regimes from traveling to Los Angeles) are present and speaking out, organizing parallel forums, vigils, an art exhibition highlighting dissident art, and billboards in Los Angeles with images of the 11J protests in Cuba are raising awareness.

Cuban art historian and activist Carolina Barrero in the article ” Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela are not at the Summit of the Americas — but their dissidents are.” published on June 8, 2022 in the Los Angeles Times “said she does not agree with those who say it would have been better to invite the shunned governments and use the forum to chastise them or demand reform, adding that ‘it is naive’ to think the power of persuasion will change Cuba’s actions. Plus, she said, Havana’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should disqualify it from joining a Western Hemisphere gathering that supports democracy and national sovereignty. ‘You cannot have a system of sanctions against Russia, then give a hand to Russia’s war allies,’ she said. ‘It makes no sense.’”

Today, June 8th at 4:00pm PT (7:00pm EST) “JAILED FOR WHAT? PEOPLE IMPRISONED FOR POLITICAL REASONS IN CUBA, NICARAGUA AND VENEZUELA” organized by Freedom House, Race and Equality, and the Pan American Development Foundation and one can still RSVP at https://bit.ly/3sVeJAw .There will be simultaneous interpretation in Spanish, English, and Portuguese. 

Later tonight between 6:00pm and 8:00pm the Latin American Youth Network for Democracy, CubaDecide, and the Transatlantic Parliamentary Forum are holding a “Summit of Freedom” with a showing of the documentary “The Attack on Oswaldo Paya and Harold Cepero” and featuring Latin Grammy Award winner El Funky. One can still register for the event.

Bloomberg reported on June 7, 2022 that “Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and El Salvador for repressing journalists as the US kicked off a summit of leaders from Latin America in Los Angeles, with tensions between Washington and the region’s authoritarian nations hanging over the event. In a speech on media freedoms in the hemisphere, Blinken singled out the countries  — whose heads of state weren’t invited or planned to skip the summit  — for jailing and harassing journalists as well as passing laws that curtail press freedoms. ‘In Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, the simple act of carrying out investigative journalism is a crime,” Blinken said. “When individual journalists are attacked, when they’re persecuted, when they’re imprisoned, when they’re targeted in any other way, the chilling effects reach far beyond the immediate victims.'”

Race and Equality, together with CADAL, held an event on June 7th at 5:00pm PT titled Peaceful Demonstrations in Latin America: Reflections on Cuba One Year After 11J, featuring the powerful testimonies of Cuban dissidents, and former prisoner of conscience Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces. Below is a video of the Zoom conference provided by YucaByte.

Later that same day at 6:30pm PT Herencia cubana Los Ángeles and friends held a vigil highlighting the plight of over 1,000 Cuban political prisoners, and calling on passersby to say their names.

Los Angeles Times, June 8, 2022

Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela are not at the Summit of the Americas — but their dissidents are.

Carolina Barrero, 35, said she has been threatened with expulsion, imprisonment and torture due to her activism and involvement in demonstrations against the Cuban government.

(Tracy Wilkinson / Los Angeles Times)

By Tracy Wilkinson, Staff writer

Los Angeles – It took two Cuban intelligence officers to carry art historian and activist Carolina Barrero, her hands and feet cuffed, from the protest she was staging this year outside the Culture Ministry in Havana.

“Libertad!” bystanders shouted. “Freedom!”

Barrero, 35, said she has been repeatedly threatened with expulsion, imprisonment and torture due to her activism and involvement in demonstrations against the Cuban government. She spent six months last year under house arrest in her Old Havana residence, with police outside her front door around the clock.

Cuban authorities have tried to intimidate her associates and friends, she said. Believing that her fellow protesters, many of them mothers with children in prison, would be punished if she did not leave the country, Barrero in February abandoned her homeland of Cuba and has been living in Spain.

Cuba’s treatment of dissidents such as Barrero is one of the reasons the country was not invited to the Summit of the Americas taking place this week in Los Angeles. Nicaragua and Venezuela, which the Biden administration has cast as undemocratic dictatorships, have also been left out of the event.

The countries’ leaders are not here, but their many vocal opponents are — among them artists, journalists and activists. Their appearance in Los Angeles for the summit coincides with “a new spirit of solidarity” in Cuba, Barrero said, noting that regular demonstrations in her home country have come to include not just elites or artists but common folk.

There has been “a catalyst, an avalanche of protest,” she said. “What began as something about artistic freedom quickly grew to civil rights and inspired an antigovernment movement.”

Barrero said the Cuban government, run for the first time in decades by someone not named Castro, has taken a dark turn, possibly fearful of a weakening in its ironclad power and control over the populace.

As an art historian who curates exhibitions around the world, Barrero felt the pressure affecting her life and livelihood in early 2018, she said. In one of his first actions, the new president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, the handpicked successor to former President Raúl Castro, instituted a law that critics say censored dissent and artistic expression. Among other things, it would require artists to be licensed by the government.

Visitors to the politically themed art exhibit “No Nos Sirve De Nada El Miedo” at the Gloria Delson Gallery in downtown Los Angeles. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

In just the last week, two artists, including a rapper who wrote a sardonic “anthem” for the protest movement that plays on old Cuban revolutionary slogans, were convicted of speech crimes. They are awaiting sentencing.

“The regime is trying to stamp out creativity itself,” Barrero said in Spanish.

Since then, dissidents say, Cubans protesting almost anything, whether political repression or food shortages, risk arrest and long prison sentences. Some of Barrero’s colleagues, including people under 21, have been given sentences of up to two decades, without a fair trial or legitimate defense, she said.

The crescendo came July 11, 2021, when thousands of Cubans poured into the streets to demonstrate against political repression, hunger and the COVID-19 response. Havana alleged that U.S. destabilizing forces were responsible for fomenting the unrest, which was an unprecedented show of public discontent. Authorities responded by arresting hundreds of people.

Cuban officials did not respond to requests for comment but have said those who were arrested disrupted public order.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla said the country’s exclusion from the Summit of the Americas revealed the event’s flaws. The summit is “a neoliberal failure” that “disconnects” the U.S. from Latin America, Rodríguez said on Twitter.

Closing the door to Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua triggered a boycott of the summit by other leaders, most significantly Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who sent his foreign minister instead, undermining the overall substance of the event and further calling into question U.S. influence in the region.

Barrero said she does not agree with those who say it would have been better to invite the shunned governments and use the forum to chastise them or demand reform, adding that “it is naive” to think the power of persuasion will change Cuba’s actions. Plus, she said, Havana’s support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine should disqualify it from joining a Western Hemisphere gathering that supports democracy and national sovereignty.

“You cannot have a system of sanctions against Russia, then give a hand to Russia’s war allies,” she said. “It makes no sense.”

Nicaragua’s dissidents are living a similar experience to their counterparts from Cuba, perhaps made more difficult because the country underwent a period of democracy following revolution, war and U.S.-sponsored efforts to overthrow the government.

Daniel Ortega, one of the leaders of the movement to free Nicaragua from dictatorship in the 1970s, was elected president in 2007, and he proceeded to move the levers of government to keep himself in power indefinitely. In recent years, he has jailed his political opponents, journalists and others who have dared to speak up.

“It is not a dictatorship; it is a mafia,” said Enrique Saenz, an economist and fierce critic of the Ortega government, echoing others who say the Nicaraguan president has abandoned ideology and is using his seat of power for self-enrichment.

“We are struggling to restore democracy,” said Daisy George West, a member of Nicaragua’s Miskito community, a minority group that lives on the country’s eastern coast and has fought to preserve its culture and political freedom.

The Ortega government is “trying to destroy everything attached to our identity,” she added.

Venezuela is a special case because the United States has actively supported an alternative government, saying President Nicolás Maduro is not a legitimate leader. Instead, Washington recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s rightful ruler but decided not to invite him to the summit.

Defending the State Department’s decisions on whom to invite, spokesman Ned Price said organizers worked to include all voices.

“We will engage in direct dialogues with stakeholders on the margins of the summit, including with citizens from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, as we work to realize a more equitable, democratic and prosperous hemisphere,” Price said.

Barrero, who was overseeing a display of artwork by Cuban and Venezuelan artists at a gallery in downtown Los Angeles, is using the summit to spread the word of her plight and those of her fellow nationals.

One strategy of authoritarians like Ortega and Díaz-Canel is to drive out of the country those with different, progressive viewpoints — which appears to be working. But Barrero remains optimistic.

“The one thing I know in my life to be true is I will return to Cuba,” she said.

https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-08/cuba-nicaragua-venezuela-are-not-at-the-summit-of-the-americas-but-their-dissidents-are

Bloomberg, June 7, 2022

Blinken Slams Cuba, Venezuela Repression as LA Summit Kicks Off

  • Nations make doing journalism a crime, secretary of state says

  • Top diplomat criticizes El Salvador for quashing free speech

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Photographer: Al Drago/Bloomberg

By Iain Marlow and Eric Martin

June 7, 2022 at 8:52 PM EDT

Secretary of State Antony Blinken slammed Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua and El Salvador for repressing journalists as the US kicked off a summit of leaders from Latin America in Los Angeles, with tensions between Washington and the region’s authoritarian nations hanging over the event.

In a speech on media freedoms in the hemisphere, Blinken singled out the countries  — whose heads of state weren’t invited or planned to skip the summit  — for jailing and harassing journalists as well as passing laws that curtail press freedoms.

“In Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, the simple act of carrying out investigative journalism is a crime,” Blinken said. “When individual journalists are attacked, when they’re persecuted, when they’re imprisoned, when they’re targeted in any other way, the chilling effects reach far beyond the immediate victims.”

His remarks come at a tense time for press freedom in the hemisphere and globally. A British correspondent and his companion, a Brazilian expert on indigenous peoples, disappeared days ago in a remote part of the Amazon rainforest after receiving threats. In Europe, Russia has cracked down on independent journalism after its invasion of Ukraine, where journalists have been killed and injured covering the conflict.

In Blinken’s remarks, he said the US government has backed new initiatives to help journalists globally, including $30 million to fund public-interest news organizations in “resource-poor and unstable settings.” The US will provide as much as $9 million for a global fund to defend journalists accused of defamation and $3.5 million to help at-risk journalists with security training, he said.

“It’s hard to think of a smarter investment in our democracies given the incredibly brave and innovative work that journalists are doing throughout our region,” he said.

The high-profile US summit being hosted by President Joe Biden is likely to deliver some agreements on the sensitive issue of northbound migration. But the conference continues to be dogged by controversy over who is attending after Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said he planned to skip it unless the US included all countries in the region after Washington refused to invite the leaders of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua.

On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned Havana for prosecuting two dissident artists on charges that “criminalize the freedom of speech and artistic expression in Cuba,” and said that inviting officials from the three nations would be at odds with some of the issues being discussed at the summit. 

“The challenges that these three regimes pose to some of the central tenets of the Summit of the Americas that is to be held this week, those challenges were just insurmountable when you talk about bringing together a summit where democratic governance — democratic values — is on the agenda,” Price said.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-06-08/blinken-slams-cuba-venezuela-repression-as-la-summit-kicks-off

Two billboards in the United States denounce the serious human rights situation in Cuba

Washington D.C., June 3, 2022“We were so hungry that we even ate our fear”, with this phrase heard during the marches that took place on July 11 and 12, 2021 in Cuba, two billboards displayed in Los Angeles, United States, denounce the serious human rights situation on the Island. This is an initiative of the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Race and Equality).

The billboards, which are located in the center of this Southern California city (216 East 4th St, CA 90013) and near the Los Angeles International Airport (Venice Blvd, CA 90034), reveal that in last year’s peaceful demonstrations (also known as 11J), more than 700 people have been arrests, most of them without being prosecuted, for demanding changes in the Island and for exercising their right to freedom of expression.

The billboards will be displayed during the IX Summit of the Americas, which will be held June 6-10 in Los Angeles, and seek to urge the international community that will attend this meeting that brings together heads of state and government of the region, to adopt measures to put an end to the repression, harassment, arbitrary detentions and attacks constantly suffered by activists, independent journalists, artists and human rights defenders in Cuba.

PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATIONS IN LATIN AMERICA: REFLECTIONS ON CUBA ONE YEAR AFTER 9/11

Tuesday, June 7

5:00 PM Los Angeles | 8:00 Havana – Washington D.C.

Hotel Indigo – Los Angeles, Downtown | Hollander Ballroom

With the special participation of:

Pedro Vaca, IACHR Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression

JAILED FOR WHAT? PEOPLE IMPRISONED FOR POLITICAL REASONS IN CUBA, NICARAGUA AND VENEZUELA

Wednesday, June 8

4:00 PM Los Angeles | 5:00 PM Central America | 7:00 Caracas – Havana

Hotel Indigo – Los Angeles, Downtown | Orpheum Room A

RSVP and virtual registration: https://bit.ly/3sVeJAw

Simultaneous Interpretation SPANISH | ENGLISH | PORTUGUESE

With the special participation of:

Stuardo Ralón, IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of Persons Deprived of Liberty

https://raceandequality.org/blog/cuba-en/two-billboards-in-the-united-states-denounce-the-serious-human-rights-situation-in-cuba/