CubaBrief: Tributes to Cuban leaders murdered on July 22, 2012. CFC executive director addresses Captive Nations Summit. Ukrainian First Lady receives Dissident Human Rights Award

On July 19, 2022 the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation held a Captive Nations Summit to observe Captive Nations Week that this year, rightfully, had a focus on events in Ukraine. At the conclusion of the summit the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska received the Dissident Human Rights Award and accepted it on behalf of the people of Ukraine.

July 17 through July 23, 2022 is Captive Nations Week and it coincides with the tenth anniversary of the extrajudicial killings of Cuban pro-democracy leaders Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22, 2012. Both were leaders in the Christian Liberation Movement. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing on CB: Case 4.196 – Oswaldo Paya Sardinas, Harold Cepero and others vs Cuba on December 14, 2021.

Last week on July 14, 2022 the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) hosted “Give Me Liberty: Examining the Legacy of Oswaldo Payá” and discussed the Cuban pro-democracy leader’s life, his existential challenge to the dictatorship, and the role he would have played in a democratic transition.

Ten years later, and in 2022 the Cuban dictatorship is more aggressive and dangerous.

Last year on July 11th, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets demanding freedom, and were met with deadly repression across the country. Unarmed Cubans nonviolently protesting were shot and killed by regime agents. The aftermath? Political show trials, militarized streets, new censorship laws, a new draconian penal code, forced exile, and hundreds of new political prisoners. Despite all this, sporadic protests continue.

The Biden White House released a proclamation for Captive Nations Week on July 15th stating the worsening situation, and placed it in a global context.

“Increasingly, repressive regimes in Russia, Iran, Belarus, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and elsewhere are seeking to subjugate not only those within their own borders but also those in other countries.  They reach across borders to surveil, harass, threaten, and even kill human rights defenders, media workers, and civilians in other sovereign nations.”

Part of the reason for this expanded aggressiveness is the ascendance and coordination of Putin’s Russia and Communist China. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the most visible manifestation of this grave threat to the international liberal order.

The Center for a Free Cuba’s executive director gave a presentation during the summit titled “Five lessons from Ukraine for the captive nation of Cuba.” Lesson number two particularly resonated.

Lesson #2 Words must be backed by actions.

“People don’t really believe in words. Or rather, people believe in words only for a stretch of time. Then they start to look for action.” – Volodymyr Zelensky (2020 on joining the EU).

[…] Many Cubans understand that statements condemning the actions of the Cuban dictatorship after July 11th without specific actions by the international community to hold the regime accountable will not end the ongoing repression by the dictatorship in the same manner that Vladimir Putin’s aggression was not met with strong resolve, and stopped [in 2014].

The Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá’s movement that still exists in Cuba, offered an eleven point action plan to the international community to isolate the Cuban dictatorship, but the international community has failed to take action and the Cuban regime continues to go forward with its repressive practices.

Friends of a free Cuba are organizing events to remember Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante on July 22nd to mark their untimely deaths ten years ago. Streets will be renamed, symposiums, and Masses held.

The Christian Liberation Movement has announced a Tribute for Oswaldo and Harold on the tenth anniversary of their murders at 3:00pm on July 22, 2022 at the Westchester Regional Library located at 9545 Coral Way, Miami, Florida. They have also announced masses to be held in Poland, France, Spain, Mexico, and Costa Rica.

Cuba Decide announced the presentation in Spanish of the Biography of Oswaldo Payá. With Pulitzer Prize winner David Hoffman on Friday, July 22, at 6:30pm at the Varela Hall of the Ermita de la Caridad. Mass in celebration of the lives of Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, and Harold Cepero Escalante

The White House, July 15, 2022

Briefing Room

A Proclamation on Captive Nations Week, 2022

July 15, 2022 • Presidential Actions

America has firmly set its sights on the ideals of freedom, democracy, equality, liberty, and justice for all.  We have never fully lived up to that founding promise, but we have never walked away from it either.  These core values have also moved us to support people around the world — especially those who live under oppressive regimes — so that they can freely exercise their rights.  As a long-standing democracy, the United States carries a responsibility to show the world how representative governance delivers benefits for all people.  During Captive Nations Week, we reaffirm our commitment to supporting and amplifying the voices of the courageous individuals around the world who are striving to advance the universal principles of freedom, democracy, justice, and the rule of law while living under oppression.

     Today, defending democracy is more vital and more urgent than ever.  Around the world, we bear witness to alarming trends — autocratic nations brutally invading the territory of their neighbors, backsliding of democratic values, intrusive digital surveillance, widespread human rights abuses, and increasing acts of transnational repression.  These practices and policies imperil the essential work of activists, journalists, and defenders of human rights, and they oppress average citizens.  Increasingly, repressive regimes in Russia, Iran, Belarus, Syria, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, and elsewhere are seeking to subjugate not only those within their own borders but also those in other countries.  They reach across borders to surveil, harass, threaten, and even kill human rights defenders, media workers, and civilians in other sovereign nations.  It is an outrage and an affront to the rules-based order that underwrites international peace and security.  The world’s democracies must stand together and show the strength of our resolve to put an end to these injustices. 

     With the first Summit for Democracy in December 2021 and the ongoing Year of Action, the United States launched an effort to bring together governments around the world to counter authoritarianism, defend democracy, and safeguard the human rights and fundamental freedoms that foster peace, security, and prosperity.  Collectively, we are working to bolster sustainable and independent media, protect and support civil society, and insist on the rule of law and accountability for those who commit abuses.

     As Russia relentlessly wages its brutal and unprovoked war against the people of Ukraine, our Nation has led a global response to hold Russia accountable and denounce its inhumanity and its contempt for international law.  We honor the valor and sacrifice of the people of Ukraine, who have reminded the world through their courage of the universal yearning for freedom.  We will continue to stand with them as they defend their country, their liberty, and their democracy.

     During Captive Nations Week, we stand in solidarity with the brave human rights and pro‑democracy advocates around the world — many of whom risk their lives each day to protect the rights of others.  We remain committed to ensuring that all those who are oppressed around the globe are heard, supported, and protected.

     May Captive Nations Week reinvigorate our efforts to live up to our ideals by championing justice, dignity, and freedom for all.

     The Congress, by joint resolution approved July 17, 1959 (73 Stat. 212), has authorized and requested the President to issue a proclamation designating the third week of July of each year as “Captive Nations Week.” 

     NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR., President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim July 17 through July 23, 2022, as Captive Nations Week.  I call upon all Americans to reaffirm our commitment to championing those around the world who are working, often at great personal risk, to secure liberty and justice for all.

     IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of July, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-seventh.

                                JOSEPH R. BIDEN JR.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/presidential-actions/2022/07/15/a-proclamation-on-captive-nations-week-2022/

Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter, July 19, 2022

Five lessons from Ukraine for the captive nation of Cuba.

Right now the destiny of our country is being decided. The destiny of our people, whether Ukrainians will be free, whether they will be able to preserve their democracy. –  Volodymyr Oleksandrovych Zelenskyy Address to the US Congress (16 March 2022)

Cubans and Ukrainians suffered under communist regimes. In Cuba today, a Marxist-Leninist dictatorship continues in power. Last year on July 11th, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets demanding freedom, and were met with deadly repression across the country. The aftermath? Political show trials, militarized streets, new censorship laws, a new draconian penal code, forced exile, and hundreds of new political prisoners. Despite all this, sporadic protests continue.

It is also important to mention that in three days we will be observing the day 10 years ago when Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero Escalante were murdered by the secret police in Cuba. You can learn about Oswaldo in this building at the Museum of the Victims of Communism.  

I want to review some lessons from what has happened in Ukraine, and not just over the past few months, but over the longer term.

Lesson #1 Appeasement encourages more aggression
On January 16, 2022, in an OpEd co-authored by myself and Frank Calzon titled ” Flashback to 1962, but Vladimir Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev, Joe Biden is no John F. Kennedy,” in which we called on the Western world not to wait for an invasion, but to apply tough sanctions to avoid war. We return to an earlier lesson given by Winston Churchill following the Munich Agreement, when Western democracies believed they had achieved peace by giving Hitler parts of Czechoslovakia.   Abandoning Ukraine in the short term may appear to guarantee peace, but the words of Winston Churchill following the 1938 Munich betrayal should give today’s policymakers pause; “You were given the choice between war and dishonour. You chose dishonour, and you will have war. ”

Lesson #2 Words must be backed by actions.

“People don’t really believe in words. Or rather, people believe in words only for a stretch of time. Then they start to look for action.” – Volodymyr Zelensky (2020 on joining the EU).

President Volodymyr Zelensky

President Zelensky’s observation, made in 2020 with reference to Ukraine’s relations with the European Union, applies today with Western promises of support for Kiev following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Prior to the 2014 Russian seizure of Crimea, Ukraine did believe in words from the West.

When negotiations between Ukraine and Russia broke down on removing nuclear weapons from Ukraine in September 1993, Washington engaged in a trilateral process with Ukraine and Russia. Yes, Ukraine had nuclear weapons in the 1990s. This resulted in the January 1994 Trilateral Statement. Ukraine agreed to transfer its nuclear warheads to Russia. In exchange, Ukraine received security assurances from the United States, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

The failure of the West to restrain Russia from invading Ukraine in 2014 and expanding the war of conquest in 2022 gives a lesson to captive nations and others that giving up nuclear weapons in exchange for security guarantees is a foolish bargain. Putin’s war in Ukraine is a blow against nuclear disarmament.

By 2019, with regards to Russia and the West, President Zelensky observed in a Time interview: ” I don’t trust anyone at all.” 

Many Cubans understand that statements condemning the actions of the Cuban dictatorship after July 11th without specific actions by the international community to hold the regime accountable will not end the ongoing repression by the dictatorship in the same manner that Vladimir Putin’s aggression was not met with strong resolve, and stopped.

The Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payá’s movement that still exists in Cuba, offered an eleven point action plan to the international community to isolate the Cuban dictatorship, but the international community has failed to take action and the Cuban regime continues to go forward with its repressive practices.

Lesson #3 We must not confuse the dictatorship with the people.

I know that they [the Russian state] won’t show my address on Russian TV, but Russian people have to see it. They need to know the truth, and the truth is that it is time to stop now, before it is too late. And if the Russian leaders don’t want to sit with us behind the table for the sake of peace, maybe they will sit behind the table with you. Do Russians want the war? I would like to know the answer. But the answer depends only on you, citizens of the Russian Federation.” – President Zelensky, February 23, 2022

Ukraine also provides an important lesson in distinguishing between the Cuban dictatorship and the Cuban people.

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzheppar

Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, Emine Dzheppar, on February 27, 2022,  tweeted: “The MFA of Ukraine in a diplomatic note expresses its strong protest against the statements of the Government of Cuba in support of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and calls on Cuba to urge Russia to put an end to this aggression.”

Free Cubans in Cuba, in contrast, were, and are, demonstrating their solidarity with Ukraine, criticizing the Castro regime’s support for Putin’s actions, leading to arrest by the political police.

Many Cubans rejected (and continue to reject) the war on social media and in messages to the Ukrainian Embassy in Havana. The volume of the calls was so “extraordinary,” the Ukrainian embassy in Havana said, that it asked Cubans to send their messages of support to a dedicated email address to clear the phone lines.

Cuban activist Pablo Enrique Delgado Hernández on Saturday, February 26, 2022 went to the Ukrainian Embassy in Havana to demonstrate his solidarity. Pablo Enrique after meeting with a Ukrainian diplomat and presenting her flowers was arrested by the National Revolutionary Police and taken to the Seventh Unit police headquarters and interrogated.

Lesson #4 Importance of disobedience

“Liberation from dictatorships ultimately depends on the people’s ability to liberate themselves.” Gene Sharp, a nonviolent scholar made that observation in his work From Dictatorship to Democracy

Resistance to tyrants, defined by a total refusal to obey them, is key to achieving a democratic transition or the end of a foreign occupation.

This sounds like a simple answer, and this is where I will close with the fifth lesson.

Lesson #5 There are simple answers, but no easy answers.

“There are no easy answers, but there are simple answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally right.” – Ronald Reagan

Captive Nations panel organized by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

https://cubanexilequarter.blogspot.com/2022/07/five-lessons-from-ukraine-for-captive.html

Kyiv Post, July 20, 2022

Ukrainians receive Dissident Human Rights Award

By UkrInform.

Published July 20

The Dissident Human Rights Award ceremony was held in Washington, during which First Lady Olena Zelenska received the award for the entire people of Ukraine.

As Zelenska posted on Telegram, on July 19 she had the honor of receiving the Dissident Human Rights Award given to the entire Ukrainian people. The award ceremony took place at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington.

“This year, for the first time, not a specific person but the entire people of Ukraine received the award for the courageous struggle for freedom against Russia’s war of aggression. Although the Memorial is dedicated to the crimes of communism, it should be remembered that this is only one face of totalitarianism,” the First Lady noted.

https://www.kyivpost.com/ukraine-politics/ukrainians-receive-dissident-human-rights-award.html