Wednesday, March 29, 2017

20 years without justice for Danish student gunned down in Havana by a soldier

"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest." - Elie Wiesel, Nobel Lecture 1986

Joachim Løvschall: December 7, 1970 - March 29, 1997

 Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a soldier of the Castro regime in Havana, Cuba twenty years ago today on March 29, 1997. The identity of the soldier has never been revealed to Joachim''s family. No one has been brought to justice. Joachim's family is not satisfied with the official explanation.

The last time they saw Joachim 
 
On March 28, 1997 Joachim Løvschall ate his last dinner with white wine in a little restaurant called Aladin, located on 21st street in Havana. He went to the Revolutionary Plaza and bought a ticket to the Cuban National Theater. Following the performance he went to the theater's bar, Cafe Cantate, and met up with two Swedish friends. They each drank a couple of beers, but soon left because Joachim did not like the music. At 23:30, they said good bye to each other on the sidewalk in front of Cafe Cantate. 


Joachim was never seen alive again. 

The Castro regime's version of what happened

On September 28, 1997 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article by Kim Hundevadt titled "Dangerous Vacation" that outlined what happened to Joachim Løvschall and presented the Castro dictatorship's version of the events leading to this young man's death:

Around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall's description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d'Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty in at night.
At 2:45am he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.

Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down. The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.

Joachim Løvschall gunned down in Cuba in 1997

Ten years ago
 
On June 12, 2007 Christian Løvschall, Joachim's father, at a parallel forum at the United Nations Human Rights Council spoke about his son's disappearance and the struggle to find out if Joachim was dead or alive:
"Although the killing took place on the 29th of March, we only came to know about it on the 6th of April - i.e. after 8 days were we had the feeling that the Cuban authorities were unwilling to inform anything about the incident. Only because of good relations with Spanish speaking friends in other Latin American countries did we succeed in getting into contact with the family with whom Joachim stayed and the repeated message from their side was that they could reveal nothing, but that the situation had turned out very bad and that we had to come to Cuba as soon as possible. At the same time all contacts to the responsible authorities turned out negatively... Only after continued pressure from our side on the Cuban embassy in Copenhagen, things suddenly changed and the sad information was given to us by our local police on the evening of the 6th of April. We are, however, 100% convinced that had we not made use of our own contact and had we not continued our pressure on the embassy in Copenhagen, we might have faced a situation where Joachim would have been declared a missing person, a way out the Cuban authorities have been accused of applying in similar cases."
 Ten years later Christian Løvschall outlined what he knew concerning his son's untimely death:
We do feel we were (and still are) left with no answers except to maybe one of the following questions: Where, When, Who, Why Starting out with the where we were told that Joachim was killed by the soldiers outside the Ministry of Interior.
Where
What we do not understand is why no fence or signs did inform that this is a restricted area? I have been on the spot myself, and the place appears exactly like a normal residential area. So you may question whether this in fact was the place of the killing? Contrary to this the authorities keep maintaining that the area was properly sealed off, and the relevant sign posts were in place.
When
As to when Joachim was killed we only have the information received from the police because of the delay informing one might believe that this is another forgery made up to cover the truth.
Who
The who was in our opinion has never been answered by the Cuban authorities. We understand that a private soldier on duty was made responsible for the killing, and also it has been rumored that his officer in charge has been kept responsible. This is of course the easy way out, but why can't we get to know the whole and true story?   
Why
Why did the soldiers have to fire two shots, one to his body and one to his head, to murder him? Was Joachim violent and did he, an unarmed individual, attack the armed soldiers? Or is it simply that the instruction to Cuban soldiers are: first you shoot and then you ask? But again: Who can explain why two shots were needed?
Despite the claims made by the travel industry there have been other travelers to Cuba who have been killed or gone missing under suspicious circumstances.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Cuba: Further information: Defender sentenced after criticizing Castro: Dr Eduardo Cardet Concepción

Amnesty International has updated its Urgent Action for Cuban prisoner of conscience Eduardo Cardet and extended it to May 8, 2017.


Further information on UA: 32/17 Index: AMR 25/5979/2017 Cuba Date: 27 March 2017
  
URGENT ACTION DEFENDER SENTENCED AFTER CRITICIZING CASTRO 

Cuban authorities sentenced human rights defender Eduardo Cardet to three years in prison after holding him in provisional prison in Holguín, south-east Cuba, since November 2016. He is a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally.

Dr. Eduardo Cardet Concepción, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement (Movimiento Cristiano Liberación, MCL) since 2014 was sentenced to three years in prison on 20 March. He was arrested in Holguín on 30 November 2016, five days after the death of the former leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. He has since been held in the provisional prison (prisión provisional) of Holguín and will remain there while he carries out the appeals.

Eduardo Cardet was charged with attacking an official of the state (atentado) after he publicly criticized Fidel Castro a few days after his death. Prior to his arrest, Eduardo Cardet had given interviews published in international media in which he had been critical of the Cuban government. In an interview with Madrid-based radio station esRadio, aired two days before his arrest, he 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 until 31 March to file an appeal.

Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:
  • Calling on the authorities to release Dr. Eduardo Cardet immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression; 
  • Calling on them to guarantee the peaceful right to freedom of expression, assembly and association including for dissident, opponent or activist voices and to repeal all legislation which unduly limits these rights; 
  • Urging them to ensure that, pending his release, he is provided with any medical care he may require; that he is not tortured or otherwise ill-treated; and that he is granted regular access to family and lawyers of his choosing.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 8 MAY 2017 TO: 

President of the Republic Raúl Castro Ruz  Presidente de la República de Cuba La Habana, Cuba  Fax: +41 22 758 9431 (Cuba Office in Geneva); +1 212 779 1697 (via Cuban Mission to UN) Email: cuba@un.int (c/o Cuban Mission to UN)  Salutation: Your Excellency

Attorney General  Dr. Darío Delgado Cura  Fiscal General de la República Fiscalía General de la República  Amistad 552, e/Monte y Estrella  Centro Habana, La Habana, Cuba  Salutation: Dear Attorney General/ Señor Fiscal General

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. Please insert local diplomatic addresses below: Name Address 1 Address 2 Address 3 Fax Fax number Email Email address Salutation Salutation 

Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date. This is the first update of UA 32/17. Further information: www.amnesty.org/en/documents/amr25/5601/2017/en/

Sunday, March 26, 2017

ODCA DEMANDS RELEASE OF ODCA VICE PRESIDENT IN CUBA EDUARDO CARDET

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.

ODCA DEMANDS RELEASE OF ODCA VICE 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



ODCA DEMANDA LIBERACIÓN DEL VICEPRESIDENTE DE ODCA EN CUBA EDUARDO CARDET

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.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/03/cuba-activist-sentenced-to-three-years-in-jail-after-criticising-fidel-castro/