Sunday, March 26, 2017


Christian Democrat Organization of America (ODCA) in Spanish represents 34 political parties that span the Americas. ODCA issued the following statement today demanding the release of its Vie-President in Cuba Eduardo Cardet.


The leader of the Christian Movement for Liberation (MCL) and ODCA Vice-President, Eduardo Cardet, was recently convicted by the Cuban authorities of three years in prison accused of "assault on authority." The opposition leader had been beaten and detained, during Fidel Castro's funeral proceedings, on November 30 in Holguín province.

Before this new determination against the Cuban dissidence, the Christian Democratic Organization of America states:

  1. We demand the immediate release of Dr. Eduardo Cardet, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement and Vice-President of ODCA, who has been leading a social and political movement that nonviolently struggles for democracy and more freedoms for Cuba. 
  2.  We understand that this new impulse to repress political dissidence is a mechanism to intimidate the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) and block the initiative "One Cuban, One Vote" that they presented to the National Assembly of People's Power in Havana.
  3. ODCA reiterates its historic position in favor of respect for the human rights and public liberties of Cuban opponents seeking to peacefully promote a process of democratization in Cuba, a struggle historically promoted by Christian Democratic leaders such as Oswaldo Payá, who died in 2012 under circumstances not clarified, and led today by Eduardo Cardet.
  4. ODCA denounces the practices of the Cuban State that violate human rights to repress and frighten political dissidents and humanitarian organizations, including beatings, threats, surveillance, harassment, arbitrary detentions, summary trials that do not comply with the principles of due process, and imprisonment.
  5.  Three months ago, the international community celebrated the 68th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with the favorable vote of Cuba and 47 other member states. In that context, we reiterate the call for Cuban authorities to respect human rights, civil and political liberties and the physical integrity of dissident political leaders, as mandated by that international commitment.
  6.  ODCA joins Amnesty International's demand for freedom, which has declared our Vice President Eduardo Cardet "a prisoner of conscience" for being imprisoned "solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression." At the same time, ODCA issues a call for subscribing of the MCL Campaign "Freedom and Life for Eduardo Cardet".
  7.  Finally, ODCA reaffirms that the right of all Cubans to decide freely and sovereignly the future of their country is the only way to move towards a tolerant, plural, free and democratic Cuba.
Santiago de Chile, March 26, 2017

Francisco Javier Jara
Executive Secretary ODCA

Original Spanish text below


El dirigente del Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación (MCL) y Vicepresidente de ODCA, Eduardo Cardet, fue condenado recientemente por las autoridades cubanas a tres años de cárcel acusado de “atentado a la autoridad”. El líder opositor había sido golpeado y detenido, en el marco de los funerales de Fidel Castro, el pasado 30 de noviembre en la provincia de Holguín.

Ante esta nueva determinación contra la disidencia cubana, la Organización Demócrata Cristiana de América, declara:

  1. Demandamos la inmediata liberación del Dr. Eduardo Cardet, líder del Movimiento Cristiano de Liberación y Vicepresidente de ODCA, quien se ha caracterizado por encabezar un movimiento social y político que lucha pacíficamente por la democracia y más libertades para Cuba.

  1. Entendemos este nuevo impulso a la represión de la disidencia política como un mecanismo para amedrentar al Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL) y bloquear la iniciativa “Un Cubano, un Voto” que presentaron ante la Asamblea Nacional del Poder Popular en la Habana.

  1. La ODCA reitera su posición histórica a favor del respeto a los derechos humanos y las libertades públicas de los cubanos opositores que buscan promover pacíficamente un proceso de democratización en Cuba, lucha que ha sido impulsada históricamente por líderes demócrata cristianos como Oswaldo Payá, fallecido el 2012 en circunstancias no aclaradas, y liderada hoy por Eduardo Cardet.

  1. La ODCA denuncia las prácticas violatorias a los Derechos Humanos del Estado cubano para reprimir y atemorizar a los disidentes políticos y a las organizaciones humanitarias, entre ellas, las golpizas y amenazas, los seguimientos y hostigamientos, las detenciones arbitrarias, los juicios sumarios que no cumple con los principios del debido proceso y el encarcelamiento.

  1. Hace 3 meses, la comunidad internacional celebró los 68 años de la Declaración Universal de los Derechos Humanos aprobada con el voto favorable de Cuba y otros 47 Estados miembros. En ese contexto, reiteramos el llamado a las autoridades cubanas a respetar los derechos humanos, las libertades civiles y políticas y la integridad física de los dirigentes políticos disidentes, tal como lo mandata ese compromiso internacional.

  1. La ODCA se une a la demanda de libertad de Amnistía Internacional que ha declarado a nuestro vicepresidente Eduardo Cardet como “prisionero de conciencia” por estar encarcelado “solamente por el ejercicio pacífico de su derecho a la libertad de expresión”.  Al mismo tiempo, la ODCA formula un llamado a suscribir la Campaña del MCL “Libertad y Vida para Eduardo Cardet”.

  1. Finalmente, la ODCA reafirma que el derecho de todos los cubanos a decidir libre y soberanamente el futuro de su país es la única vía para avanzar hacia una Cuba tolerante, plural, libre y democrática.

Santiago de Chile, 26 de marzo de 2017

Francisco Javier Jara
Secretario Ejecutivo ODCA

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Travel agencies getting sued for misrepresenting conditions in Cuba to tourists

Travel agencies rosy picture of Cuba has a legal downside

Paradisus Rio de Oro in Holguin: what travel agencies show (left) what tourists see (right)
Lonely Planet pitches Cuba as "old school cool" and an "escape from the hustle and bustle" but at the bottom of the web page has one line of caution: "The US Center for Disease Control has issued a travel alert suggesting that pregnant women postpone travel to Cuba due to the presence of the zika virus." The Castro regime has a poor history of timely reporting of epidemics on the island, placing tourists at risk.  Canada's Sunwing travel agency pitches Cuba as "Paradise…with a history." However it fails to mention that the resort they were sending tourists to in Cuba had "water problems" which meant little or no water for at least 12 days according to a March 22, 2017 Global News article. In a follow up article on March 24th Global news reported on  the Starfish Cayo Santa Maria resort in Cuba:
Travellers told Global News they had little or no fresh water for their entire trip to the resort, making it impossible to flush toilets, take showers or wash their hands.
Some, like Donna Carvalho of Georgetown, Ont., returned to Canada and went almost immediately to hospital with severe diarrhea, vomiting and an excruciating headache. Carvalho was placed in isolation for five hours and released after she said doctors concluded she had likely become ill from unsanitary conditions at the resort.
Carvalho said she witnessed the hotel restaurant using a “dirty rag” to clean dishes, cutlery and glassware in lieu of a dishwasher. Other travellers described similar nauseating experiences.
The Canadian government has said that the ill served tourists, many of whom returned home very sick can sue the travel agency.  It is not only Sunwing that needs to worry about a lawsuit but also the British based Thomas Cook travel agency.  James and Kathryn Longhurst booked their dream honeymoon to Cuba for a two-week all-inclusive getaway in Paradisus Rio de Oro in Holguin, Guardalavaca that cost the newlywed couple $6,235.     Three days in, Mr Longhurst fell so ill his tongue turned black. He was rushed to the hospital, where he was given injections and put on IV drips. Returned home and continued to feel ill. They are now suing Thomas Cook.  Mrs. Longhurst also became ill. The newlyweds cited "filthy conditions" as the cause of the illness observing in a March 23rd article in The Sun that "dining restaurants were poorly kept with food not “covered properly”, “insects and birds” flying around the buffet area, staff not wearing gloves while handling food and the same utensils used for different dishes."

James Longhurst was put on an IV drip on his honeymoon
Tourism was supposed to be a magic bullet that would help to open up Cuba, but the reality has been more of a mixed bag with some unexpected downsides for everyday Cubans while strengthening the most repressive elements in the island. However at the same time tourists visiting the island on more than one occasion have encountered the real Cuba that the Castro regime spends considerable resources trying to conceal from outsiders. Nevertheless news accounts emerge that should give prospective visitors pause.

It is true that tourism provides hard currency to the Cuban military, that runs the tourism industry on the island shoring up the dictatorship, but not expected was that it would also generate food shortages among everyday Cubans as The New York Times reported on December 8, 2016.

Foreign tourists misled by travel agencies can seek justice and exercise their rights back home, but not in Cuba. Meanwhile Cubans have less access to food while the military and the Castro regime get richer off of foreign tourists prolonging the life of the dictatorship.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Cuba: Activist sentenced to three years in jail after criticising Fidel Castro

Husband, father of two, and physician sentenced to three years in prison for expressing himself
Eduardo Cardet Concepción, Cuban prisoner of conscience
Amnesty International, 21 March 2017

A three year sentence against the leader of a Christian pro-democracy movement after he criticized Fidel Castro is a stark illustration of ongoing restrictions to the right to free expression in Cuba, said Amnesty International.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) was sentenced on Monday 20 March, his wife told Amnesty International.

He was charged with attacking an official of the state (atentado) after he publicly criticized former Cuban leader Fidel Castro a few days after his death. During an interview with Madrid-based radio station esRadio, aired two days before his arrest, Cardet described the mourning in Cuba following the death of Fidel Castro as imposed, and said: “Castro was a very controversial man, very much hated and rejected by our people.”  His lawyer has ten days to file an appeal.

“For decades, the Cuban authorities have harassed and intimidated members of the Christian Liberation Movement in a attempt to silence any dissenting ideas,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Despite some recent openness, we see how the Cuban authorities continue to control free expression. It is beyond belief that people are still routinely arrested for criticizing a politician or for writing an opinion on a wall – as was the case of graffiti artist Danilo ‘El Sexto’ Maldonado.  Sadly, Cuban courts continue to fail to provide a rigorous check and balance to executive powers.”

“There is no doubt that Dr Cardet is a prisoner of conscience, put behind bars for speaking his mind. He must not be made to spend a second longer in jail.”

Provisions of the Cuban Criminal Code, such as contempt of a public official (desacato), resistance to public officials carrying out their duties (resistencia) and public disorder (desórdenes públicos) are frequently used to stifle free speech, assembly and association in Cuba.

The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, a Cuban-based human rights NGO not recognized by the state, documented a monthly average of 827 politically motivated detentions in 2016.

The Christian Liberation Movement (Movimento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) is a prominent actor in the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. According to its website, it is a movement for peaceful and democratic change and respect for human dignity. It was founded in 1988 by Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, who became a visible figure of the Cuban political opposition, and four other activists.

Amnesty International has documented harassment and intimidation of members of the MCL for decades. In 1991, after Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas presented a petition calling for a national referendum relating to constitutional reform, he had his home destroyed by over 200 people, said to be members of a Rapid Response Brigade. After Oswaldo Payá announced his intention to put himself forward as a candidate for deputy to the National Assembly for the municipality of Cerro, Havana, members of his organization were reportedly subjected to frequent questioning and short-term detention.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Mother and son of 2015 machete attack victim receive death threat from Castro regime agent

"I am obliged to once again denounce the dictatorial regime of the Castros, this time as a mother and human rights defender." - Sirley Avila Leon, March 20, 2017

Sirley Avila Leon denounces death threats against her son and mom
Las Tunas, Cuba: Yoerlis Peña Ávila on March 15, 2017 received a death threat against him and his grandmother, Sirley Leon Aguilera, for being family (son and mother respectively) of Sirley Avila Leon, who was the victim of a May 24, 2015 machete attack carried out by a regime collaborator that left her permanently disabled. The threat is in response to her legal demand presented to recover 126,000 Cuban pesos ($4754) in damages resulting from the attack.

On March 15, 2017 he was able to send an e-mail to his mother that described what had happened that same day: "I was working and a man that I do not know told me that it was better that the legal demand not be continued because you did not know the risk in which you were exposing me and my grandmother that for you to suffer they could attack us."

Four days earlier on March 11, 2017  Sirley Avila Leon had contacted her son, and again on March 13th on both occasions they discussed the legal action being pursued, but then found it increasingly difficult to communicate. It appears that the Castro regime does not want this legal action to be pursued and is using intimidation to try to shut it down.

There is good reason to be concerned with this pattern of threats and harassment. Over a three year period (2012 - 2015) regime agents made a series of threats and took actions that culminated in the attempted murder of Sirley Avila Leon on May 24, 2015. Another round of threats and harassment when she returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 following medical treatment in Miami  led to her decision to leave Cuba on October 28, 2016 and request asylum in the United States when death threats against her person escalated and her attacker, Osmany Carriòn, was free and bragging that he would finish the job he started.

Sirley Avila Leon is asking democratic representatives, human rights organizations, and members of international organizations and all people of goodwill to urge the Cuban government to investigate the threat made against her son and mother.

Background information
Sirley Ávila León was a delegate to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cuba from June 2005, for the rural area of Limones until 2012 when the regime gerrymandered her district out of existence. The Castro regime removed her from her position because she had fought to reopen a school in her district, but been ignored by official channels and had reached out to international media. Her son, Yoerlis Peña Ávila, who had an 18 year distinguished career in the Cuban military was forced out when he refused to declare his mother insane and have her committed to a psychiatric facility.

Sirley joined the ranks of the democratic opposition and repression against her increased dramatically. On May 24, 2015 she was the victim of a brutal machete attack carried out by Osmany Carriòn, with the complicit assistance of his wife, that led to the loss of her left hand, right upper arm nearly severed, and knees slashed into leaving her crippled. Following the attack she did not receive adequate medical care and was told quietly by medical doctors in Cuba that if she wanted to get better that she would need to leave the country.

On March 8, 2016 she arrived in Miami and began a course of treatments over the next six months during which she was able to walk once again although still limited due to her injuries. She returned to Cuba on September 7, 2016 only to find her home occupied by strangers and her attacker free and bragging that he would finish the job. She moved in with her mother and within a short time a camera and microphone were set up across from her mother's home on a post.

Threats against Sirley's life intensified leading her to flee Cuba to the United States and request political asylum on October 28, 2016. Below is a video in Spanish explaining the circumstances that led her to leave Cuba.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Cuba should be removed from UN Human Rights Council until Castro frees Eduardo Cardet

"So long as the Castro government jails Eduardo Cardet, a prisoner of conscience, we call for the complete removal of Cuba from this Council." -  Hillel Neuer of UN Watch, addressing the UN Human Rights Council, March 20, 2017

Sentenced today to three years in prison
Eduardo Cardet Concepción, prisoner of conscience and Christian Liberation Movement national coordinator, was sentenced to three years in prison today. Meanwhile at the United Nations Human Rights Council his plight was referenced in an oral statement by Hillel Neuer of the nongovernmental organization UN Watch. Speaking out for the Cuban dissident drew an angry protest from the Castro regime's diplomats that interrupted the courageous speaker.

MCL leader Eduardo Cardet condemned to three years in prison
From the Christian Liberation Movement website:

Today Eduardo Cardet was informed of the sentence to three years in prison that was dictated by the court that tried him on March 3, 2017 in Gibara, Holguin. Eduardo Cardet told his wife, the sentence is based on manipulated data, without taking into account the testimony of defense witnesses. Cardet's family will appeal the ruling

Listen to Yaimaris Vecino's testimony in Spanish.

Eduardo Cardet has been jailed since November 30, 2016 for speaking critically of Fidel Castro following his death. Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience on January 31, 2017.

Yaimaris Vecino, Eduardo Cardet and their two sons

Dictatorships at UNHRC try to silence UN Watch's Hillel Neuer

UN Human Rights Council, debate under Agenda Item 8, Vienna Declaration of Human Rights
delivered by Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch

Today we ask: Is the world living up to the Vienna Declaration, which reaffirms basic human rights?
We ask the government of Turkish President Erdogan, if it cares about human rights, why did they just fire more than one hundred thousand teachers, university deans, judges, prosecutors, religious figures and public servants?

We ask Pakistan, when will they release Asia Bibi, the innocent, Christian mother of five, now on death row on the absurd charge of blasphemy?

We ask Saudi Arabia, when will you end gender apartheid? When will you stop oppressing all religious practice that is not Wahhabist Islam? When will you release Raif Badawi, serving 10 years in prison for the crime of advocating a free society?

We welcome the Secretary-General’s new pledge of UN reform. That is why today, pursuant to Article 8 of Resolution 60/251, we call for the complete removal of Saudi Arabia from this Council.

So long as 1.3 billion people are denied their basic freedoms, we call for the removal of China. So long as human rights are abused by Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Congo, Egypt, Iraq, Qatar, and UAE, we call for their removal.

So long as the Maduro government imprisons democracy leaders like Mayor Antonio Ledezma of Caracas, and causes its millions of citizens to scavenge for food, we call for the removal of Venezuela.

So long as the Castro government jails Eduardo Cardet, a prisoner of conscience, we call for the complete removal of Cuba from this Council.

Mr. President, we have the right to cite the suspension provision of this council’s own charter. They can silence human rights defenders at home, but they cannot do so at the United Nations.