CubaBrief: Breaking through the Castro regime’s false narratives. One of every six Cubans has left the island under Castroism. Dictatorships in Latin America gained significant ground in 2022.

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, age 36 shot in the back by regime police on July 12, 2021 following Diaz-Canel’s call to violence against Cubans.

The Castro regime claims that the source of all its failures are U.S. sanctions, but the failures are due to communist central planning that the Castro regime imposed on Cuba in 1959 reveals Ambassador Otto J. Reich in his December 27, 2022 letter to the editor published in The New York Times. Tens of thousands of Cubans have drowned or disappeared in the Florida Straits, trying to reach the freedom of the US. Fidel Castro did not begin blaming Washington for the problems he had created until 1991 when the Soviet Union imploded. This was the year that Havana began campaigning to condemn the U.S. embargo at the United Nations General Assembly.

On the same day as Ambassador Reich’s letter, The Washington Times published Orlando Gutierrez-Boronat’s OpEd “Refusing to recognize Cubans as ‘refugees’ denies the realities and brutalities of the Castro regime” in which he summarized the brutal nature of the dictatorship in Cuba.

“From the onset, the Castro regime aimed to crush its enemies and considered passive dissent or nonconformity a threat to its power. These threats were dealt with by attacking and harassing suspected dissenters with government organized mobs while imprisoning others in concentration camps, and even engaging in ruthless massacres and firing squad executions of innocent civilians who were denied due process. Many of those who escaped violence still faced the confiscation of property and endured political and religious persecution. Others who tried to leave or corresponded with relatives who escaped were marginalized as “class enemies.” Targeted groups included seminarians, clergy, dissident artists, hippies and homosexuals.”

The Human Rights Foundation’s Álvaro Piaggio and Luciana Talamas on December 21, 2022 in their publication “Champion of Democracy: Combatting Authoritarianism in Latin America” highlighted that “the Cuban and Nicaraguan regimes have engaged in some of the most ruthless repression campaigns in recent history. Venezuela, the other fully-fledged dictatorship in the region, has doubled down on its efforts to whitewash its image abroad and attempt to regain international legitimacy — even as it is being investigated for crimes against humanity and forcing a seemingly endless number of people to become refugees.” Piaggio and Talamas advise that the democratic world should think about “not engaging in diplomatic relations with authoritarian regimes,” and calls on citizens to amplify the “stories of political prisoners from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela on social media and elsewhere is important for sustaining the pro-democracy movement.”

In October 2022, Venezuela lost its seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council.

The Center for a Free also has a campaign underway to expel Cuba from the UN Human Rights Council that is still gathering signatures.

The Christian Liberation Movement initiated a Campaign for Solidarity with the Freedom of Cubans following the 11J protests, which calls on the international community to hold the Cuban dictatorship accountable. Let Havana know that its repressive actions are intolerable and will not go unpunished. To this end, they have proposed  11 concrete actions to isolate diplomatically, commercially and financially the political-military junta in power, as was done with the segregationist apartheid regime in South Africa. The Center’s campaign fits within this larger initiative.

The New York Times, December 27, 2022

To the Editor:

Re “Largest Exodus Imperils Future of Ailing Cuba” (front page, Dec. 11):

Cuba has had many mass migrations since 1959. In fact, the exodus has never stopped, only waxed and waned as the government alternatively cracked down or encouraged emigration, or as the means to escape became more, or less, easy.

In the nearly 64 years of communist rule, one of every six Cubans has left the island. More than ten thousand have drowned or disappeared in the Florida Straits, trying to reach the freedom of the U.S. Scores have been murdered by the regime’s security forces trying to escape.

This depopulation is not because of U.S. sanctions; it is because of political repression and Marxist economics. Fidel Castro himself, while alive and the sole ruler, ridiculed the embargo, because he was receiving ample economic aid from the Soviets. It was only when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 that Castro began blaming the U.S. for the problems communism had created.

Otto J. Reich
Falls Church, Va.

The writer is the president of Center for a Free Cuba and a former diplomat in the Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush administrations.

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/12/27/opinion/letters/george-santos-falsehoods.html


The Washington Times, December 27, 2022

Refusing to recognize Cubans as ‘refugees’ denies the realities and brutalities of the Castro regime

By Orlando Gutierrez Boronat – – Tuesday, December 27, 2022

OPINION:

Earlier this year, Boston University professor Susan Eva Eckstein published “Cuban Privilege: The Making of Immigrant Inequality in America,” a 300-page book that perpetuates the myth that Cubans are a privileged immigrant class. To argue her point, the author implies that the Cuban identity as “refugees” seeking asylum was a mere construct, not a reality. This is an inaccurate assertion that denies the facts of the Cuban experience and callously disregards the historical tragedies caused by Fidel Castro‘s brutal regime.

This assertion, that Cuban exiles were and are not actual “refugees,” is repeated throughout Ms. Eckstein’s book despite the fact that most Cuban exile experiences satisfy the U.N. definition of the term: persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order and, as a result, require international protection.

To deny that Cubans have endured “feared persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or other circumstances that have seriously disturbed public order” and as a result, do not “require international protection” is to deny reality. The effect of this argument is dangerous because it not only condones reckless historical revisionism about the Cuban exile community, but even more concerning, confirms decadeslong Castro regime propaganda that perpetuates the lie that is not the brutal oppressor history has demonstrated.

To be sure, the establishment of a Cuban communist state in the heart of the Western Hemisphere 90 miles from Florida was an unprecedented event that forced the U.S. to similarly take unprecedented steps in the face of human catastrophe unfolding at its doorstep. 

From the onset, the Castro regime aimed to crush its enemies and considered passive dissent or nonconformity a threat to its power. These threats were dealt with by attacking and harassing suspected dissenters with government organized mobs while imprisoning others in concentration camps, and even engaging in ruthless massacres and firing squad executions of innocent civilians who were denied due process. Many of those who escaped violence still faced the confiscation of property and endured political and religious persecution. Others who tried to leave or corresponded with relatives who escaped were marginalized as “class enemies.” Targeted groups included seminarians, clergy, dissident artists, hippies and homosexuals.

Day-to-day life in communist Cuba has always been and remains an exercise of living in fear. Spy committees have been established on every block to control the private lives of neighborhoods. Independent media is prohibited, private schools remain closed, and all aspects of independent civil society are banned. Despite these realities, which have been widely documented, Ms. Eckstein refuses to recognize the active typology of totalitarianism in Cuba. In a stunning act of denial, the author uses the term “totalitarianism” only once in 300 pages, and only to quote U.S. legislation. 

To ignore the reality of totalitarianism in Cuba is to lose sight of the systematic mass repression the Castro regime institutionalized. Cubans rightly fled this repression, but they also sought means through which to return to liberate their homeland. The plight of Cuban refugees is a direct result of the United States’ bungled Cuba policy from its dealing with Gen. Fulgencio Batista onward. Tragically, free Cubans suffered from inconsistent U.S. support of their liberation efforts. These efforts arbitrarily risked the lives of more than 1,500 Cuban 2506 Brigade fighters who were left to die or face torture and imprisonment at the hands of Castro’s army during the 1961 Bay of Pigs. This was a betrayal, not a privilege. 

As a result of its own failures, the U.S. government ceased all significant efforts to bring about Cuba’s freedom with the 1962 Kennedy-Khrushchev Agreement. Exile training camps once supported by the U.S. were shut down and trainees once treated as heroes were threatened with criminal prosecution if they continued their heroic efforts to free their homeland. Based on their shared values and work ethic, these exiles persevered, and as a community, they succeeded in the United States. But they did not forsake or forget their dream of a free Cuba, and made it their mission to pass on their hopes to new generations.

Despite the determination of the exile community to free its homeland, U.S. initiatives have narrowly focused on dealing with the massive human displacement caused by Castro’s totalitarianism. The U.S. has achieved this by resettling and providing a new life opportunity for Cubans who lost everything, but all meaningful support for their liberation efforts have been discarded by Washington decision-makers.  

Still, the author believes the totalitarian Castro regime embodies Cuban self-determination, even though the freedoms that allow people to determine their own destiny were suppressed on a scale unprecedented in Latin American history. In what can be described only as a stunning act of delusion, the author believes that Castro freed Cuba from “the U.S. imperialist yoke,” and that the regime was driven by altruistic ideals to achieve a genuine communist society. Those who have opposed the regime are depicted as selfish, belittling the sacrifice of those who died in the fight for Cuban liberty.

Ms. Eckstein’s search for truth is driven by ideology, not the ethical value of science. Cuba’s tragedy under totalitarianism has not been a privilege, but rather the tragic fate of a proud, hardworking people who cherish freedom. While Cubans have not forgotten the plight of their native land, they revere the values of the United States and its institutions. To suggest otherwise is not only a denial of facts and history, but rather an embrace of the false reality projected by decades of debunked Castro regime propaganda, which is immersed in lies. 
 
• Orlando Gutierrez Boronat is the coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a U.S.-based nonprofit, pro-democracy organization. He is also the author of “Cuba: The Doctrine of the Lie.”


https://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2022/dec/27/refusing-to-recognize-cubans-as-refugees-denies-re/


Human Rights Foundation, December 21, 2022

Champion of Democracy: Combatting Authoritarianism in Latin America

December 21, 2022

By Álvaro Piaggio and Luciana Talamas

Authoritarianism in Latin America has gained significant ground in 2022.

The Cuban and Nicaraguan regimes have engaged in some of the most ruthless repression campaigns in recent history. Venezuela, the other fully-fledged dictatorship in the region, has doubled down on its efforts to whitewash its image abroad and attempt to regain international legitimacy — even as it is being investigated for crimes against humanity and forcing a seemingly endless number of people to become refugees. Competitive authoritarian regimes such as those in Bolivia, El Salvador, and Honduras have also taken steps to narrow the already limited space available for civil society to challenge incumbents.

After the widespread protests in Cuba on July 11, 2021, the regime’s systematic repression of dissent has significantly increased, charging hundreds with “sedition,” “disturbance of peace,” and “dissemination of information that negatively portrays the Cuban government,” among others. As the world witnessed this, Cuba’s parliament approved a new penal code in May that includes sentences of 10 to 30 years or even death to whoever associates with foreign organizations or individuals unauthorized by the government. Since January, Cuba’s crackdown on dissent has resulted in more than 640 arrests and an exodus of more than 115,000 people by August. The dictatorship has also denied several high-profile Cuban dissidents the ability to return home, citing public interest reasons.

Simultaneously, the Cuban regime has attempted to normalize diplomatic relations and whitewash its image before the international community. The latest example: Passing  the new “Family Code” in September; a law that allegedly provides certain protections for the LGBTQ+ community in the country. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, joined other government officials in welcoming the positive results of the referendum that preceded it by tweeting, “Today we are a better country, with more rights.” In practice, the Cuban dictatorship continues to violate international human rights laws and suppress its citizens’ freedoms of expression, thought, and association, including those of the country’s beleaguered LGBTQ+ community.

Similarly, in Venezuela, the number of citizens who have left the country since 2016 has surpassed 7.1 million. In 2022, over 900,000 Venezuelans fled to other Latin American countries and more than 190,000 to the United States (US), a 300% increase from 2021. The reasons underlying the Venezuelan exodus include the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis caused by the destructive policies of Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro and the continuous repression of dissent by the Maduro regime. As of October, Venezuelan human rights groups reported 245 political prisoners being held in detention by Venezuela’s dictatorship. And the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV) released a report in September detailing a plan “to suppress opposition to the government, including through the commission of extremely grave acts of torture amounting to crimes against humanity.” In October, Venezuela was denied a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. 

Although this was a positive development given Venezuela’s poor human rights record, the Maduro regime has been actively trying to normalize relations with democracies. For example, by leveraging the record numbers of migrants entering the US, Venezuela is proposing “a fund that could release over $3 billion to provide humanitarian aid to Venezuela through the United Nations, in a process that also involves […] the US State and Treasury Departments.” The regime’s efforts to regain legitimacy in the international arena already have the support of Colombia’s newly elected president, Gustavo Petro, who is spearheading negotiations between the opposition and the regime in Mexico. 

In Nicaragua in 2021, Daniel Ortega solidified his power after imprisoning all opposition candidates, thus running unopposed in a sham presidential election. In 2022, taking its crackdown on dissent a step further, the regime aggressively dismantled the remnants of dissent in civil society by shutting down hundreds of NGOs, forcing more than a hundred journalists into exile, and persecuting high-ranking members of the Catholic Church in the country, Matagalpa Bishop Rolando Álvarez, one of the last outspoken critics of the regime, among them. Nicaragua now has more than 200 political prisoners, all of whom are being held in inhumane and degrading conditions with little to no contact with the outside world.

Democracy is also under serious threat in other parts of the continent. In El Salvador, shortly after winning control of the legislature in the 2021 elections, President Nayib Bukele launched a troubling attack on the independence of the judiciary. He bent the rules to stack the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court with political allies, forcing dozens of mid- and lower-level judges to retire. This assault culminated in his announcement to run for reelection in 2024 — something prohibited by the Salvadoran Constitution but effectively approved by the Supreme Court that took over this year. 

In Central America, assaults on freedom of speech in Honduras have raised concerns about increased authoritarianism in the country. In South America, Bolivia has been once again engulfed in civil unrest. Bolivian civil society and opposition groups led a weeks-long strike demanding the government carry out the scheduled population census before the next election, something that could critically alter the balance of power among coalitions in Congress. The competitive-authoritarian regime of Luis Arce has responded with disdain and the support of para-state groups, exacerbating an already volatile situation.

As this year ends, people suffering under authoritarianism need the support of the democratic world more than ever. There are many ways to do this. For example, amplifying the stories of political prisoners from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela on social media and elsewhere is important for sustaining the pro-democracy movement. It puts pressure on authoritarian regimes, making it clear the rest of the world is watching. Raising awareness and sharing these stories can also urge democratic governments to support democracy where it’s most at risk and to consider not engaging in diplomatic relations with authoritarian regimes. Countries like the US, for example, shouldn’t cave in to the cheap and empty diplomatic overtures of the likes of Maduro and Díaz-Canel. Human rights should be the top priority in any engagement with dictatorships. Concessions shouldn’t be considered unless tangible and serious attempts are made to release political prisoners, restore free and fair elections, and establish mechanisms that can bring redress to the millions who have suffered under tyranny. 

https://hrf.org/champion-of-democracy-combatting-authoritarianism-in-latin-america/