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Wednesday, December 9, 2015

International Human Rights Day at Miami Dade College: Cause for Celebration and Protest

"Free expression is the base of human rights, the root of human nature and the mother of truth. To kill free speech is to insult human rights, to stifle human nature and to suppress truth." - Liu Xiaobo, Chinese prisoner of conscience and Nobel Laureate

International Human Rights Day is a day to highlight the many remaining human rights challenges and the universal consensus found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  We salute Miami Dade College honoring human rights pioneer Ricardo Bofill on December 9, 2015, the eve of International Human Rights Day. Free Cuba Foundation members also celebrate Mayor Tomas Regalado of the City of Miami declaring today Ricardo Bofill Day during the Miami Dade College event. Both human rights defenders Ofelia Acevedo and Carlos Alberto Montaner celebrated the life and work of Ricardo Bofill.
Ricardo Bofill with Mayor Tomas Regalado (Photo by Rosa Maria Payá)
Sadly we are not in a celebratory mood with the activity planned for International Human Rights Day itself  with Eve Ensler's One Billion Rising Voices celebration of International Human Rights Day. One Billion Rising Voices claims to be a global movement seeking to end violence against women and girls through benefit productions of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues and other artistic works. In late October she visited Cuba and performed her works there and met with Mariela Castro ( the dictator's daughter) and did not publicly raise the issue of systemic regime violence against Cuban women who dissent.

Therefore in an effort to raise attention to the violence visited on Cuban women by the Castro dictatorship Eve Ensler met with and did not speak about the Free Cuba Foundation has produced three posters highlighting cases of violence against Cuban women by agents of that regime. The posters highlight instances of regime violence from 2011, 2013 and 2015. There are many more cases.

Laura Pollán was repeatedly beaten by the Castro regime’s agents between 2003 and 2011 for rising up for human rights in Cuba. The Ladies in White founder who through nonviolent marches demanded Cuban prisoners of conscience be freed died under suspicious circumstances on October 14,2011. She had been a school teacher.

On Sunday, July 21, 2013 Sonia Álvarez Campillo was brutally beaten by agents of the Cuban government for her dissent and suffered lasting physical damage.  Over twitter the aftermath of the attack was posted by her daughter Sayli Navarro who tweeted the above quote and independent journalist Ivan Hernandez Carrillo tweeted: "This is the Lady in White Sonia Álvarez Campillo after today's first act of repudiation against the Ladies in White."

Cuban human rights defender, Sirley Ávila León, age 56, was gravely wounded in a machete attack in Cuba on May 24, 2015 by Osmany Carrión who had been sent by state security agents. She lost her left hand while raising it to block a machete blow to the head. She suffered deep cuts to her neck and knees, lost her left hand and the machete cut through the bone of her right humerus leaving her arm dangling. Sirley Ávila León, a one time delegate of the People’s Assembly of Majibacoa worked through official channels to represent her community but when they ignored her requests to keep a school open she went to the international media and was later removed from office. She joined the democratic opposition. This led to escalating acts of repression by state security against the 56-year-old mother of two culminating in this attack. She is still in danger and her assailant is free to walk the streets of Cuba.

Our purpose is to bear testament that Cuban women have been brutalized by a 56-year-old dictatorship in Cuba that systematically violating human rights today. Unfortunately, International Human Rights Day in Cuba is a day of crackdowns and repression against nonviolent dissenters. Hopefully Eve Ensler will receive this message and in the future speak up for Cuban women subjected to brutal repression for having the courage to speak their mind and demand freedom. It is ironic that in a hemisphere were women have been elected to the highest office in the land as has been the case in Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Brazil, and elsewhere that a dictatorship run by two brothers for 56 years in a patriarchal and chauvinist manner would be celebrated by someone claiming to be a feminist and defender of women.

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