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Monday, February 26, 2018

Family members, students and university community hold silent vigil at FIU for Brothers to the Rescue martyrs

Remembering and honoring Armando Alejandre Jr., Carlos Alberto Costa, Mario Manuel de la Peña, and Pablo Morales.

Silent vigil for justice today at Florida International University (Photo Alvaro Mata)
Family members, students and members of the university community held a silent vigil for justice for the four victims of the February 24, 1996 shoot down. The vigil took place at the main fountain at Florida International University located between the Charles E. Perry Bldg. and the Green Library on February 26, Monday from 3:21pm to 3:27pm the times both planes were shot down. Family members and students began to gather at 3:15pm.

Family members hold vigil at FIU for their loved ones. (Photo: Alvaro Mata)
 2018 marks 22 years since Fidel and Raul Castro ordered Cuban MiGs to shoot down two Brothers to theRescue planes that at the time were in international airspace killing Armando Alejandre Jr. (45 years old), Carlos Alberto Costa (29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (24), and Pablo Morales (29). A thorough international investigation carried out by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights on the merits made public in 1999 concluded: that the Castro regime was legally responsible for their murders and for the lack of justice.

Students, staff, and members of the FIU community took part in the vigil today.
 Successful civil lawsuits have been brought against the Castro regime by the families of the victims, but criminal prosecutions of those responsible, save one case, have not been carried out. On December 12, 2001 Gerardo Hernandez, a Cuban spy ,was sentenced to life in prison for conspiracy to commit murder for his role in providing information that led to the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. Unfortunately, President Barack Obama on December 17, 2014 commuted his life sentence and returned Mr. Hernandez to Cuba. Families have expressed feeling misled by the United States government.

Former prisoner of conscience Regis Iglesias, together with family, friends at vigil
Among the attendees today was Regis Iglesias Ramirez, spokesman of the Christian Liberation Movement and former prisoner of conscience, who paid his respects to the victims and their family members.

Regis Iglesias Ramirez pays his respects to the four martyrs
On Saturday, February 24, 2018 in Cuba several opposition activists were detained while attempting to pay homage to the victims of the 1996 Brothers to the Rescue shoot down.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Where were you the day Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died eight years ago?

Orlando Zapata Tamayo, May 15, 1967 – February 23, 2010

Orlando Zapata Tamayo
Do you even know who Orlando Zapata Tamayo was?

Orlando Zapata Tamayo was a Cuban bricklayer and human rights defender who worked with human rights heroes  Oscar Elias Biscet, and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas in campaigns to educate Cubans on human rights and to reclaim those rights in the Project Varela petition drive.

He was imprisoned in 2003 and continuously beaten and tortured for seven years for continuing his defiance of the dictatorship and defense of human rights behind bars. In late 2009 in order to protest mistreatment he went on hunger strike and prison officials responded by taking his water away in order to break his spirit. Instead they killed him. Amnesty International said "Cuban authorities responsible for activist's death on hunger strike."

Cuban human rights defender and martyr Orlando Zapata Tamayo
The uproar caused by his death was a key factor in the later release over the course of 2010 and 2011 of the remaining prisoners of conscience imprisoned since 2003.

Returning to the original question in abbreviated form: "Where were you the day Orlando Zapata Tamayo died?"

The Canadian punk rock band I.H.A.D. asked the question in a song simply titled "Orlando Zapata" and we after requesting their permission produced the video below accompanying their song.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Twenty years ago today the Agreement for Democracy in Cuba was signed by 33 organizations at Florida International University

Twenty years ago today, 57 groups from inside and outside the island signed The Agreement for Democracy in Cuba. The Free Cuba Foundation signed The Agreement on February 20, 1998 at Florida International University at an event attended by 33 Cuban exile organizations. A total of 57 organizations (33 in the diaspora and 24 inside Cuba) signed this document that remains relevant today. Below is the text translated to English.

Agreement for Democracy in Cuba

We, Cubans conscious of the need for transcendental change in the political, social and economic structures of our country, gather, beyond our diverse strategies for liberation, to affirm before our people and the international community the essential postulates that substantiate the democratic alternative to the despotism which currently prevails in our homeland.

We affirm that the Cuban nation is one, within the national territory and in diaspora. We believe that all Cubans have the right to be equal before the law and the nation, with full dignity that cannot be subject to any discrimination. We likewise understand that the present regime has shown itself incapable of assuring liberty and justice and of promoting well-being and human solidarity in our homeland. Due to this, from this point forward, we establish, through a great national consensus and as a clear alternative to the current oppression, this: Agreement for Democracy in Cuba.
We recognize as the fundamental principle of the new Republic that Cuba is one and independent, whose sovereignty resides in the people and functions through the effective exercise of representative multi-party democracy, which is the government of the majority with absolute respect for the minority.

All governments must respect the sovereignty of the people, therefore, at the end of the current tyrannical regime, the provisional or transition government shall be obligated to return sovereignty to the people by way of the following measures:
  1. Guarantee the people’s participation in the decisions of the nation through the exercise of universal, direct, and secret voting to elect its representatives, and the right to seek public office.
  2. Immediately issue a general amnesty for the liberation of all political prisoners, including those who have been sentenced for fictitious common crimes, and cancel the pending political cases against Cubans in exile, so as to facilitate their return to the homeland and their reintegration into the national society.
  3. Organize an independent, impartial, and professional judiciary.
  4. Recognize and protect the freedom of expression, of the press, of association, of assembly, of peaceful demonstration, profession, and religion.
  5. Protect the Cuban people from arbitrary expulsion from their homes as well as against all forms of detention, search, confiscation or arbitrary aggression, and from violation of their correspondence, documents and other communications, and defend all Cubans’ rights to privacy and honor.
  6. Immediately legalize all political parties and other organizations and activities of civil society.
  7. Refer to the Constitution of 1940, when applicable, during the transition period and convoke free elections with the supervision of international organizations within a time period not greater than one year, for a Constituent Congress which will establish a Constitution and which, during its existence, shall have authority to legislate as well as to oversee the executive. Having thus achieved democratic legitimacy, it shall call general elections in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
  8. Recognize and protect the freedom of economic activity; the right to private property; the right to unionize, to bargain collectively and to strike; the Cuban people’s right to genuine participation in their economic development; access to public health and education, and initiate the reestablishment of civic values in education.
  9. Take immediate steps to protect Cuba’s environmental security and protect and rescue the national patrimony.
  10. Propitiate and guarantee the professionalism and political neutrality of the Armed Forces and create forces of public order whose rules of conduct shall adjust to the principles of this Agreement.
Cuba shall resurrect from its own ashes, but it is the sacred obligation of all Cubans – both within the oppressed island and in diaspora – to place our hands on the plough without looking backwards but rather into the deepest part of our hearts, to convert those ashes into fertile seeds of love and creation. Now, as 100 years ago, our national aspiration remains the construction of a Republic based on the formula of triumphant love:


Signed February 20, 1998 at Florida International University.

José Luis Pujol

Juan Carlos Acosta

Pedro L. Solares

José Pérez Linares

Ana M. Carbonell

Pedro Luis Ferro


Dr. Lino B. Fernández

Dr. Ricardo Bofill

Andrés García

Lázaro Jordana

Húber Matos

Juan Fernandez de Castro y Orlando Gutiérrez

Rolando Borges

Francisco García

John Suárez

Rufino Alvarez

Ruth C. Montaner

José Basulto

Dr. Rafael Díaz-Balart

Sylvia G. Iriondo

Ramón Saúl Sánchez

Roberto Pereda

Israel Abreu Villareal

Estela Rose

María Márquez


Alberto Martínez Echenique

Sergio Ramos

(Representación en el exterior) PARTIDO SOCIAL DEMÓCRATA CUBANO 
Tony Santiago

Luis González Infante

Dr. Nicolás Gutiérrez

Carlos Alberto Montaner

Original Spanish text follows:

Acuerdo por la Democracia en Cuba

Nosotros, cubanos conscientes de la necesidad de un cambio trascendente en las estructuras políticas, sociales y económicas de nuestro país, nos juntamos más allá de nuestras estrategias en favor de la liberación para afirmar ante nuestro pueblo y la comunidad internacional los postulados esenciales que substancien la alternativa democrática al despotismo que impera actualmente en nuestra patria.

Afirmamos que la nación cubana es una sola, en el territorio nacional y en la diáspora. Creemos que todos los cubanos tenemos el derecho a ser iguales ante la ley y la nación, con dignidad plena que no puede ser sometida a ninguna discriminación. Entendemos, asimismo, que el presente régimen se ha mostrado incapaz de asegurar la libertad y la justicia y de promover el bienestar general y la solidaridad humana en nuestra patria. Por eso desde ahora establecemos, mediante un gran consenso nacional y como una clara alternativa a la opresión actual, este

Acuerdo por la Democracia en Cuba

Reconocemos como principio fundamental de la Nueva República que Cuba es una e independiente, cuya soberanía reside en el pueblo y funciona mediante el ejercicio efectivo de la democracia representativa pluripartidista, que es el gobierno de la mayoría con respeto absoluto a la minoría.

Todo gobierno tiene que respetar la soberanía del pueblo, por tanto, al fin del régimen tiránico actual, el gobierno provisional o de transición tendrá la obligación de devolverle la soberanía al pueblo mediante las siguientes medidas:

  1. Garantizar la participación del pueblo en las decisiones de la nación, a través del ejercicio del sufragio universal directo y secreto para elegir a sus representantes y el derecho a postularse para cargos públicos.
  2. Promulgar de inmediato una amnistía general para la liberación de todos los presos políticos, incluyendo a aquellos condenados por falsos delitos comunes, y cancelar las causas políticas pendientes contra los cubanos exiliados, para facilitar su regreso a la patria y su reincorporación a la vida nacional.
  3. Organizar un poder judicial independiente, imparcial y profesional.
  4. Reconocer y proteger la libertad de expresión, de prensa, de asociación, de reunión, de manifestación pacífica, de profesión y religión.
  5. Amparar a los cubanos contra todo tipo de desalojo arbitrario de sus viviendas así como contra toda detención, registro, allanamiento, confiscación o agresión arbitraria, y contra la violación de su correspondencia, documentos, y otras comunicaciones y defender el derecho de todos a la intimidad y el honor.
  6. Legalizar de inmediato a todos los partidos políticos y demás organizaciones y actividades de la sociedad civil.
  7. Referirse a la Constitución de 1940, en lo aplicable, durante el período de transición y convocar a elecciones libres con la supervisión de organismos internacionales, en un plazo no mayor de un aqo, para un Congreso Constituyente que establezca una Constitución y que durante su existencia pueda legislar y fiscalizar al Ejecutivo. Lograda así la legitimidad democrática, convocará a elecciones generales según establezca la Constitución.
  8. Reconocer y proteger la libertad de gestión económica; el derecho a la propiedad privada; la libertad sindical; el derecho al convenio colectivo y a la huelga; el derecho a la participación real del pueblo cubano en el desarrollo económico; y el acceso a la salud y la educación públicas e iniciar el reestablecimiento de los valores cívicos en la misma.
  9. Tomar con urgencia medidas para proteger la seguridad medioambiental y proteger y rescatar el patrimonio nacional.
  10. Propiciar y garantizar la profesionalidad, dignidad y neutralidad política de las Fuerzas Armadas y crear cuerpos de orden público cuyas normas de conducta se ajusten a los principios de este Acuerdo.

Cuba resurgirá de sus propias cenizas, pero es obligación sagrada de todos los cubanos - tanto de los que viven en la isla oprimida como en la diáspora - poner las manos en el arado sin mirar atrás sino a lo más profundo de nuestros corazones, para convertir las cenizas en semilla fecunda de amor y creación. Ahora, como hace 100 aqos, nuestra aspiración nacional continúa siendo construir una República basada en la fórmula del amor triunfante:

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Silent Vigil for Justice at FIU on February 26th for Brothers to the Rescue shootdown martyrs

"To forget the victims means to kill them a second time. So I couldn't prevent the first death. I surely must be capable of saving them from a second death." -  Elie Wiesel
What:   Vigil for BTTR shoot down victims 
When:  Gather Monday, February 26, 2017 @ 3pm Vigil starts 3:21pm
Where: Main Fountain
             Florida International University 
             11200 South West 8th Street Miami, FL 

Vigil hosted at the main fountain at Florida International University between 3:21pm and 3:27pm the times that two Brothers to the Rescue planes were destroyed by air-to-air missiles fired by Cuban MiGs as they flew through international airspace searching for rafters. 

Family members and friends of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña and Armando Alejandre Jr. will be in attendance. This event is for FIU students and members of the FIU Community and has been held annually since 1996. 

Fact Sheet on February 24, 1996 Brothers to the Rescue Shoot down 

February 24, 1996 shoot down was an act of state terrorism that blew two civilian aircraft out of the sky with air to air missiles while in international airspace after regime planned the act months beforehand with its espionage network in the United States.
 FACT 1: By definition: Terrorism is the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)  

FACT 2: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to life (Article I of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, who died as a result of the direct actions of its agents on the afternoon of 24 February 1996 while flying through international airspace.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits

FACT 3: Cuba is responsible for violating the right to a fair trial (Article XVIII of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man) to the detriment of the relatives of Carlos Costa, Pablo Morales, Mario De La Peña, and Armando Alejandre, in that to date the Cuban authorities have not conducted an exhaustive investigation with a view toward prosecuting and punishing the perpetrators and have not indemnified those same relatives for the damage they suffered as a result of those illicit acts.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights September 29, 1999 Report on the Merits

FACT 4: In Alejandre v. Republic of Cuba, 996 F.Supp. 1239 (S.D.Fla. 1997), a federal district court awarded the families of three of the four occupants of the “ Brothers to the Rescue” planes shot down by Cuba in 1996 a total of $187.7 million in damages against Cuba.

Lawsuits Against State Supporters of Terrorism: An Overview by Jennifer K. Elsea

FACT 5: WASP spy network was involved. One of the “illegal officers” (Gerardo Hernandez) was convicted of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder based on his role in the February 24, 1996, shoot-down of two unarmed civilian aircraft in international airspace by Cuban Air Force jet fighters, which resulted in the deaths of four people, three of them U.S. citizens.

Department of Justice on Obama Commutations

FACT 6: Brothers to the Rescue had spotted and saved thousands of rafters in the Florida Straits and was engaged in such a mission on that day. The one plane that skirted the boundary briefly was the only one to return. The other two were shotdown miles away from Cuba’s boundary having never entered or touched it on that day and the planes had been in contact with the Cuban tower throughout the flight.

ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown

FACT 7: On July 26, 1996 the United Nations Security Council: "Noting that the unlawful downing of two civil aircraft on 24 February by the Cuban Air Force violated the principle that States must refrain from using weapons against airborne civil aircraft, the Security Council this afternoon condemned such use as being incompatible with the rules of customary international law "

ICAO Resolution on February 24 shootdown

FACT 8: Ana Belen Montes, the US intelligence community's top analyst on Cuban affairs had throughout a sixteen-year career at the Defense Intelligence Agency sent the Cuba intelligence service sensitive and secret information and helped to shape US opinion on Cuba. Investigation against her was triggered by her odd behavior before and after the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down. On September 21 2001 Ana Belen Montes was arrested and subsequently charged with Conspiracy to Commit Espionage for the government of Cuba. Montes eventually pleaded guilty to spying, and in October, 2002, she was sentenced to a 25-year prison term followed by 5 years of probation.

True Believer: Inside the Investigation and Capture of Ana Montes, Cuba's Master Spy

FACT 9: On December 27, 2010 and again in a January 19, 2011 clarification the defense of Cuban spy-master Gerardo Hernandez acknowledged that "there was overwhelming evidence that the 1996 shoot-down of two Brothers to the Rescue planes occurred in international airspace, not Cuban territory."

The Miami Herald: Cuban spymaster now claims Brothers to the Rescue shooting was outside Cuban airspace by Jay Weaver December 27, 2010

FACT 10: On December 17, 2014 President Barack Obama commuted Gerardo Hernandez’s two life sentences and returned him along with two other spies jailed for crimes in the United States to Cuba where they were received with a hero’s welcome in what is an immense propaganda victory for the Castro regime.

Department of Justice on Obama Commutations 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Obama era witch-hunt against Hispanic New Jersey Senator who dissented over Iran, Cuba policies ends

Politically motivated witch-hunt by Obama Administration against Democrat Senator who opposed him on Cuba and Iran policy ends. 

Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey vindicated
On July 31, 2018 the U.S. Justice Department dropped its case against Senator Robert Menendez bringing to an end a four year long witch-hunt following a mistrial back in November 2017.

Democrats talk a lot about Russian strongman Vladimir Putin ordering the hacking of the 2016 elections, but are very quiet about Cuba's Castro dictatorship smearing a sitting Cuban American Democratic Senator in order to sideline him from taking part in the policy debate on Cuba in early 2014 as the leading Democrat in the Senate Foreign Relation Committee. 

Despite the Central Intelligence Agency having credible evidence that the Castro regime's intelligence service was behind the smear the Obama Justice Department refused to pursue that line of investigation, even "though those allegations [against Senator Menendez] didn't pan out."
The alleged Cuba connection was laid out in an intelligence report provided last year to U.S. government officials and sent by secure cable to the FBI’s counterintelligence division, according to the former official and a second person with close ties to Menendez who had been briefed on the matter. The intelligence information indicated that operatives from Cuba’s Directorate of Intelligence helped create a fake tipster using the name “Pete Williams,” according to the former official.
These facts were inconvenient to the Obama's Administration, then secret drive, to normalize relations with the Castro regime which became public on December 17, 2014.

Three and a half years later the new U.S. - Cuba policy of the Obama Administration has yielded negative results with the Castro regime legitimized and strengthened internationally, causing more harm in Latin America generally, and in Venezuela particularly. Two dozen American diplomats have been seriously harmed in Havana and the embassy shuttered.

Senator Menendez is a profile in courage who confronted the leader of his own party, on what he knew to be great errors in policy in Iran and Cuba that harmed the people of those two countries nd undermined U.S. national interests.

This is in stark contrast to Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona, who has spent a long career as an apologist for dictatorships, even when it endangered American lives.''