Hello folks, I just celebrated my birthday—I won’t say which one—with my daughter, granddaughter, and great-grandson. It’s also the end of the cherry blossoms, which arrived early this year.
Recently, I spoke with Betio, a Honduran environmental activist who I helped obtain asylum in the US and bring his large family here. They recently moved to Texas, but we keep in touch by phone. He knew slain La Esperanza activist Berta Caceres and also the Mexican witness wounded in the case, who is also a friend of a Mexican friend here in DC, small world.
Amarjit Pabla, born in the US of an American father and a Honduran mother, is a gang leader captured in Tegucigalpa.
Here is my panel at the upcoming Amnesty International Conference in Miami (Doubletree Hotel hear the airport)
Freedom of Expression, Dissent, and the Internet – What is the outlook for human rights in Cuba?, Friday April 1, 6:00 to 7:30pm
Punk rocker Gorki Aguila announced a “performance” a on March 25 in Havana at a place called La Paja Recold. At the performance, the band appeared in a silence. And they all had their mouths taped shut. The place was reported surrounded by State Security and that Cuban graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto) has been arrested by the police. While few Cubans will hear about this, as was the case with Danilo's pig caper, it will be made known outside the country and makes the Cuban leadership look increasingly foolish, as happened also when Raul Castro flubbed a reporter's question on political prisoners.
This guy just mentioned below must be related to Vladimiro Roca, former decorated fighter pilot and son of late Communist Party stalwart Blas Roca, and is not the only family member to become disaffected. I met Vladimiro the 1990s (as per excerpt below that from my book on Cuba and Latin America).
Posted: 24 Mar 2016 01:52 PM PDT
From Freedom House:
Cuba: Release Independent Journalist Immediately
In response to the violent abduction of independent journalist Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, whose whereabouts are unknown, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“The Cuban government should inform Valle Roca’s family of his whereabouts and release him immediately,” said Carlos Ponce, director for Latin America programs. “Despite President Castro’s claims to defend human rights, the Cuban government continues its blatant repression of freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to peacefully protest.”
On March 20, Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca was abducted and detained by the Cuban secret police in an incident captured on video by Voice of America, prior to President Obama’s visit. Valle Roca was previously beaten and arrested for his work as an independent journalist. Valle Roca is one of the grandchildren of the late Blas Roca Calderío, founding member and leader of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC).
Cuba is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2015, and Not Free in Freedom on the Net 2015.
From my book:
Vladimiro Roca, Famed Fighter Pilot
Vladimiro Roca, the dissident son of late Castro loyalist Blas Roca, was once a trusted MiG fighter pilot trained in Czechoslovakia. An intense, direct man, he expressed absolute conviction in the justice of his cause. In Roca’s frank opinion, the most serious failings of the Castro government were in housing, transportation, and food supply, “There are many other problems, but these are the three basic ones. If they wanted to resolve them, they could… It’s a strategy: as long as you’re kept busy fixing your house, looking for food, and figuring out how to get around, you don’t think about changing the government. You’re preoccupied with just getting by.” The embargo, according to Roca, had helped Fidel stay in power, “He needs an enemy to keep the people in a state of war, even though it’s a fictitious war.”
Roca was arrested and served five years in prison soon after I met him. He was released in 2002 and became the leader of the outlawed Social Democratic Party. He vowed never to leave the island, but to fight on until his death. He has been denied permission to travel abroad to receive international human rights’ awards or to visit his daughter in Tampa. In a 2004 interview, he said, “I’m convinced that Fidel doesn’t care about the well-being of the people. In fact, I think it would bother him if people were better off. Fidel is not a comandante, but a pretty diabolical person.”
The following are some articles about Cuba that have come out around President Obama’s visit there. The first one below hones in on something I mention throughout my Cuba book, that most Cubans are always hungry, even though few are actually starving. The tone of the article is more bitter toward Obama’s Cuba policy than I would be, but I definitely agree on the hunger issue. President Obama fully extended the hand of friendship and gave a careful and masterful speech in Cuba, daring to mention peaceful free expression and even voting. Let's hope it had some impact both on the party leaders inside the hall and on the television audience, though it was not reprinted in the official newspaper, Granma, as is usual with such speeches. Raul Castro ended up looking foolish, flubbing a reporter's question on political prisoners.