Wednesday, August 31, 2016

All eyes on Venezuela September 1st: “The Grand Taking of Caracas”

"Cuba is the sea of happiness. Towards there goes Venezuela. " - Hugo Chavez, March 8, 2000
“The Grand Taking of Caracas: Gathering Points”
 The democratic opposition in Venezuela having received an electoral mandate late last year that gave it control of the National Assembly has confronted a regime that has undermined the rule of law, allowed Cuban military and intelligence officials to call the shots in repression, and that has engaged in maneuvers to undermine the Assembly's capacity to govern. This has led to the call for a recall on the rule of Nicolas Maduro and free election for his replacement in accordance with the constitution. Ignoring the demands of the citizenry to either ignore or delay it to maintain Chavista control, the democratic opposition has called on the citizenry to nonviolently gather on September 1st in the capital of Caracas in order to pressure electoral boards to allow the recall vote.  This protest is called "The Grand Taking of Caracas" and has seven different gathering points across the Venezuelan capital.

The Maduro regime has responded preemptively arresting nonviolent democratic opposition activists and manufacturing false charges against them. The arrest of Yon Goicoechea, a young political leader and family man, forcibly taken by men in unmarked vehicles Monday morning is a chilling example compounded by the sinister and manufactured slanders against him by Diosdado Cabello later that same day.

Opposition leaders in 2016 are still being murdered in Venezuela and the international community must pay attention to this disturbing trend especially with this upcoming opposition protest on September 1st.

Venezuelan activist Yon Goicoechea (center) kidnapped this past Monday
Venezuela is in the midst of a profound crisis as the Maduro regime, with the help of their Cuban advisors, transform the country into a totalitarian dictatorship. This is taking place in an international environment that over the past decade has seen a retreat both in human rights and the defense of democratic institutions. The leftist regime in Nicaragua is also becoming a dictatorship along the Chavez model.

Despite the claims made by Nicolas Maduro that the United States is behind the September 1st protest organized by Venezuela's democratic opposition and is promoting a coup d'etat against his regime the reality is that Western Democracies, including the United States have abandoned Venezuela's democrats. 

In Latin America the center-right government of Macri in Argentina is blocking efforts to censure the Venezuelan regime for its anti-democratic practices in favor of backroom deals to obtain the support of Caracas at the United Nations on a key vote.

Obama with Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro  (April 2009)
The Obama administration and the Kerry State Department have abandoned democracy promotion for the pursuit of stability and maintaining the status quo, and are willing to collaborate with whoever can accomplish that realpolitik objective. It is important to remember that Secretary of State John Kerry in  August of 2015 said "the United States and Cuba are talking about ways to solve the Venezuelan crisis." The news today that the Chavista judge who sealed the fate of Venezuelan hunger striker Franklin Brito in 2010 now pursuing political asylum in the United States speaks volumes about the Obama administration's posture to the regime in Venezuela.

The Washington Post Editorial Page Editor in his August 28, 2016 OpEd "What the world could lose in America’s presidential election" highlighted the Obama administration's global abandonment of human rights and democracy promotion beginning in 2009:
But democracy promotion faded as a goal once Obama moved into the White House. In negotiations with China, Iran, Cuba and North Korea, human rights were never a priority. [...] How far the administration evolved from Obama’s 2007 vision can be measured in an article by Vice President Biden in the current issue of [Foreign Affairs] that barely mentions democracy or human rights. Biden sets tasks for the next administration to achieve a “more peaceful and prosperous future,” none explicitly related to freedom: deepening alliances in Asia and the Western Hemisphere, addressing climate change and terrorism, improving ties with regional powers.
What is taking place in Venezuela is the result of the decision by both Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro to impose the Cuba model on the Venezuelan people, not a U.S. conspiracy as the Venezuelan regime claims. This sham can be seen by Maduro's response to neutral third parties that could objectively document the September 1st protests: rejecting the presence of international observers, and deporting international journalists.

Leopoldo Lopez with supporters on February 18, 2014 when he turned himself in
 The future of Venezuela will be decided by Venezuelans, but sadly the forces of dictatorship have international backing that the democrats do not. This means that Venezuelan democrats have only one possible path to success and that is via a carefully though out strategy of civic nonviolent resistance. The path laid out by Leopoldo Lopez through his nonviolent example has shaken the international legitimacy of the Maduro regime, earned Leopoldo the good will of tens of millions of his countrymen in Venezuela and should be followed.

Free Venezuelans may not be able to depend on democratic governments, but people of good will can and should take action by organizing, speaking out and raising awareness. For example the The Latin American network of Youth for Democracy is denouncing the ongoing wave of repression in Venezuela.  People of good will around the world need to take to social media and follow events in that South American country.

All eyes on Venezuela!
Free Leopoldo!
Free Yon!
Free all of Venezuela's prisoners of conscience!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

#FreeYon: 2008 Milton Friedman Prize Laureate kidnapped in Venezuela


Venezuelan classical liberal Yon Goicoechea disappeared in Venezuela

 Yesterday morning Yon Goicoechea, a young political leader and family man, was forcibly taken by men in unmarked vehicles.  Later that same aftenoon, Diosdado Cabello at a pro-regime rally called Yon an assassin and accused him of transporting explosives. Cabello has no official role in law enforcement and is also suspected by U.S. prosecutors of being in charge of the infamous drug-trafficking organization, "Cartel de los Soles." The rule of law has not existed in Venezuela for many years and the Leopoldo Lopez show trial in 2015 was but one of many examples of its absence. Where does one find an honest man in Venezuela today who defends the rule of law and liberty? Either protesting on the streets, in prison, dead or exiled.  Yon, who is a classical liberal in the tradition of Milton Friedman, is a nonviolent advocate for liberty, free markets and the rule of law. These are ideas despised by the Chavista regime in Caracas.

Yon is the 2008 laureate of The Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty
Today marks six years since the death of Franklin Brito, a man who died on hunger strike on August 30, 2010 defending the rule of law and property rights in Venezuela.  Today the judge who followed the instructions of the regime that contributed to Brito's death is seeking political asylum in Miami. Franklin Brito's daughter took to social media to denounce the outrage. Unfortunately, once again Cubans will recognize this practice having seen it themselves with Cuban human rights violators granted "asylum" by the Obama administration.  The problem is not the Cuban Adjustment Act but the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Cuba and the Obama administration that reward these criminals with visas and residency in the United States. Hopefully, the outcry  Ángela Brito will cause them to back off in this instance.

Following the downward spiral of Venezuelan democracy over the past 15 years and the efforts by young Venezuelans to stand up to the criminal and totalitarian onslaught first by Chavez and now by Maduro (with their Cuban handlers) is often a case of deja vu in the methods of defamation, repression, and terror used against them. Experience in the Cuba case is that remaining silent is deadly for the victims of repression. One must speak out in solidarity with them quickly to save them.

This is why there must also be an outcry now for Yon Goicoechea before it is too late. The alert republished below was passed on to me by social media and apparently originated by Ana Collado.

International Alert:
Political Activist Yon Goicoechea Forcibly Disappeared by Venezuelan Political Police

Yon Goicoechea, kidnapped and missing since yesterday
 Caracas, August 30, 2016. 2:00.p.m.

Yon Goicoechea, political leader and member of the Volutad Popular political party, was taken into custody by presumed agents of SEBIN, the Venezuelan political police, with no arrest warrant, no explanation and no information as to his whereabouts.

Around 9:30 am on Monday, August 29, Goicoechea was in his car, along with driver Peter Salas, on his way to pick up furniture in Caracas. He was intercepted on the highway by two unmarked vehicles. Both Goicoechea and Salas were forcibly removed from their car and taken away to an unknown location. The car was seized.

Diosdado Cabello, a highly influential figure in the government, alleged on Monday afternoon that Goicochea was transporting “detonators for explosive devices,” and referred to Goicoechea as an assassin. The allegation was made in the context of a pro-government political rally. No documentation has been made available to support these claims, and Cabello plays no formal role in law enforcement.

It has been more than 30 hours since Goicoechea and Salas were last seen. They have not been given access to council, their families have not had any contact with them. No official information has been produced as to their whereabouts, the charges levied against them, or the evidence to support them. Under the Venezuelan constitution, Goicoechea has the right to contact with his family and lawyers immediately upon detention.

Goicoechea, a 31 year old lawyer and political activist, especially focused on non-violent activism, won the Milton Friedman Prize for Advancing Liberty in 2008. He was a key leader during the 2007 student movement. He founded Futuro Presente, an NGO dedicated to the advancement of leadership and democratic values among Venezuelan youths.

Yon had recently moved back with his wife and children to Venezuela, after having spent four years abroad studying and working, in order to continue his political activism in favor of democracy. He is the fourth member of Voluntad Popular to be either detained or issued an arrest warrant in the past week.

Goicoechea is the father of two young children, Salas is the father of a baby girl.

Yon Goicoechea and Peter Salas are two more victims of an unscrupulous and repressive regime. Any evidence of wrongdoing is fabricated. The Venezuelan authorities must ensure their physical safety. We urge you to denounce these obscene and systematic violations of human rights in Venezuela so that repression and persecution of dissidence come to an end once and for all.

Franklin Brito: A Martyr for Liberty and Human Rights in Venezuela

"I’ve learned of the death of hunger striker Franklin Brito. It appears that Hugo Chavez now has his own Orlando Zapata" - Yoani Sanchez, August 31, 2010 on twitter

Franklin Brito ( September 5, 1960 – August 30, 2010)
Hunger strikes are the ultimate recourse in the arsenal of non-violent resistance, and over the years around the world it has succeeded at times but in places like Cuba, Ireland, and six years ago in Venezuela a human being died on hunger strike.

In Cuba the names of Pedro Luis Boitel, Orlando Zapata Tamayo and Wilman Villar Mendoza are remembered as is Bobby Sands of Northern Ireland (who the Cuban dictatorship built a memorial to in Cuba) and on August 30, 2010 Venezuela's Franklin Brito joined this select grouping that demonstrated the ultimate price when engaging in a hunger strike.

Franklin Brito was a farmer and a biologist whose land was expropriated by Hugo Chavez in 2000 according to CNN. Other news agencies place the date of expropriation anywhere between 2003 and 2004. He exhausted every recourse and was driven to the final option: the hunger strike in 2005.  A chronicle of Brito's odyssey is available in Spanish on Wikipedia. In the video below taken three months prior to his death the hunger striker describes his condition and his struggle for justice:

Despite its widespread violation there is a right to private property enshrined both in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Organization of American States' American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. It is an internationally recognized human right and clearly stated:
Article 17 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: (1) Everyone has the right to own property alone as well as in association with others. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.

Article XXIII of the American Declaration states: "Every person has a right to own such private property as meets the essential needs of decent living and helps to maintain the dignity of the individual and of the home."
When Franklin Brito's family said that he stood for "the struggle of the Venezuelan people for property rights, access to justice, for living in freedom," they were simply stating the facts of the matter. In the video below taken on November 19, 2009 Franklin Brito declares that:
"I am not doing this strike for something material or because persons have behaved badly towards me - that one could say are corrupt. I am doing this strike for dignity and justice. I believe that these are the greatest values that a human being should have."

The Venezuelan tyranny* said that Franklin Brito was mentally unstable because he had sown up his mouth and cut off one of his fingers on live television. The Red Cross, Caracas Clinical Hospital and the Venezuelan Psychologists' Association said that Franklin Brito was of sound mind.

The tactics Mr. Chavez used and Nicolas Maduro is now using, questioning the mental stability of their adversaries, and smearing them, even in death, is straight out of their Cuban mentor's repertoire. Friends and family of Franklin Brito had best continue to organize the facts and evidence surrounding his case, protect it, and duplicate it so that it cannot be seized and destroyed. They should engage in speaking out anywhere and everywhere to counter the avalanche of slander and libel from regime apologists against a man who can no longer defend himself.

Hugo Chávez has nationalized 2.5 million hectares as part of a “land reform drive.” The so-called reform, combined with increased government control over the economy, has exacerbated food shortages in Venezuela with Chavez forced to step up imports despite abundant land and a tropical climate just like Cuba did years ago.

It is not madness to take extremes in the defense of liberty and justice, but it is madness to repeat the same failed policies that have bankrupted and destroyed nations the world over and expect a different outcome in your own homeland.

 "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." - Marcus Tullius Cicero

*Use of the term tyranny is not a rhetorical exercise but defines what Hugo Chavez's democratically elected government has descended into a tyranny. There are two dictionary definitions of tyranny which are often related to each other. For example in the case of Cuba with Fidel Castro it is the state ruled by an absolute ruler but in the case of Venezuela it is the "arbitrary or unrestrained exercise of power; despotic abuse of authority" that applies.

Military takeover of Havana: Another sign things are getting worse in Cuba

In spite of the normalization of relations between the Castro regime in Cuba and the Obama administration the situation has not improved, and the military continues to consolidate its control over the Cuban economy as the Castro brothers prepare their generational succession with the de facto approval of the White House. The former British Ambassador to Cuba, Paul Hare, explains below how things are getting worse for reformers in Cuba.

Former British Ambassador to Cuba, Paul Hare
 The Miami Herald, August 29, 2016

More bad news for new ideas in Cuba

Read more here:

Read more here:

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Victims of Communism Memorial Commemoration 2016: Cuba and how to educate Americans about communism

Revisiting the 2016 Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation Commemoration 

Every June the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation hosts a Commemoration on the anniversary of the dedication of their Memorial. Their purpose is to honor the memory of the more than 100 million victims of communism, to celebrate liberty where it has triumphed, and to further the pursuit of a world free from communism.

In 2016 they started off with a briefing on the state of human rights and political developments in Cuba, featuring Mauricio Claver-Carone executive director of Cuba Democracy Advocates;  Sirley Ávila León, Civil and Human Rights Activist; Julio M. Shiling, author and director of Patria de Martí; and John Suarez, international secretary of the Cuban Democratic Directorate.

This was followed by a panel discussion by distinguished experts on the monumental task of educating Americans about communism which included: Murray Bessette, PhD Director of Programs and Publications, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation; Bruce Cole, PhD Senior Fellow, Ethics and Public Policy Center; Hope M. Harrison, PhD, Associate Professor of History and International Affairs, The George Washington University; Mackubin Thomas Owens, PhD Dean of Academic Affairs and Professor, The Institute of World Politics.

Paul A. Goble was awarded the 2016 Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom. He gave an important speech on the continued relevance of anti-communism in the 21st century.