Monday, August 21, 2017

Citizen Power for China statement on the imprisonment of three young Hong Kong student leaders

"They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hong Kongers". - Joshua Wong

Citizen Power for China statement on the imprisonment of Alex Chow, Nathan Law, and Joshua Wong 

 Joshua Wong,  Nathan Law and Alex Chow arbitrarily detained

On August 17, 2017, an appeal by the Chinese-controlled Hong Kong prosecution officially imprisoned three young student leaders, Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong, for their leadership in the 2014 umbrella movement. They were on the forefront of the Umbrella Movement, and were present during the only dialogue with the Hong Kong Government. The grim ending to their case gravely saddens us, and we express our solemn protest against the evil intentions of Chinese authorities.

It has now been three years since the protests that saw millions of young Hong Kong citizens flood to the streets and take up the fight for democracy, and against the meddling hands of the Chinese Communist Party. Citizen Power, and other Pro-democracy activists will never forget the continuing efforts of the organizers on the front lines, but the Chinese Communist Party is not willing to forget either.

At almost the same time two years ago, the trio had been convicted for taking part in or inciting an "illegal assembly", and sentenced to community service for their ideals. Through the guise of Hong Kong's Department of Justice, Beijing's heavy hand has worked maliciously to make a cautionary tale out of these young men.

They want to send a message to the people of Hong Kong that to rebel, and to express one's own thoughts is tantamount to committing a serious crime. A community service charge was never strong enough to send that message.

Judge Wally Yeung, who presided over the case, accused the call for democracy as "arrogant and self-righteous thinking", and a "sick trend" of anti-government protest. The message was sent. Alex, Nathan, and Joshua will spend seven months, eight months, and six months behind bars, respectively.
We are saddened by this abhorrent and transparent act of political imprisonment by the Chinese-backed government, and the setback it has caused for a peaceful transition to democracy in Hong Kong. Not only have the freedoms of the trio been stolen, but their ability to assume to office in the next five years has been unjustly taken as well -- in accordance with Hong Kong's laws prohibiting individuals jailed for more than 3 months to run for office within 5 years.

Chow, Law, and Wong may be behind bars, but we share their plea to other Hong Kongers to continue to fight for democracy in Hong Kong, which is now more important than ever. Xi Jinping's ambition to return to fundamental Marxist principles has seen him flex military might in Hong Kong, threatening to topple the rule of law.

They can silence protests, remove us from the legislature and lock us up. But they will not win the hearts and minds of Hong Kongers. - Joshua Wong

We wish Alex Chow, Nathan Law and Joshua Wong a safe 2017, and promise not to take their sacrifices for granted.

Initiatives for China (a.k.a. Citizen Power for China) is dedicated to a peaceful transition to democracy in China through truth, understanding, citizen power, and cooperative action.

I stand in solidarity with Joshua, Nathan, Alex and the free people of Hong Kong in their struggle to remain free. I had the honor of meeting Alex and Nathan in 2015 at a gathering organized by Citizen Power for China.

With Nathan Law at Initiatives for China event in 2015

Friday, August 18, 2017

In Solidarity with Barcelona #YoSoyEspañol #JoSócCatalá

#WithBarcelona #BarcelonaContigo

Pray for Barcelona. No more terrorism. My heart is with you.
At least 13 killed and a hundred wounded in Barcelona yesterday in acts of terrorism. I spent a year living in Madrid back in 2005-2006 and had been there several times before and after visiting this my home away from home. I'd also spent time in Barcelona and walked through the Ramblas, the scene of one of the terror attacks. The news of the attacks yesterday in Barcelona fill me both with anger and intense sorrow.  My prayers and thoughts are with those killed, wounded by the terrorists in Spain and their families. Today in solidarity I say Yo soy Español, Jo Sóc Catalá.

In solidarity with my Spanish brothers and sisters I will pray for the dead, wounded and their loved ones. At the same time will celebrate Spanish culture by patronizing Spanish establishments in South Florida this weekend and listening to Spanish music. One of my favorite bands is a band based out of Barcelona called "El Último de la Fila" that was active between 1984 and 1998. Below is a selection of some of their music videos.

If you like their sound you might want to purchase their music. One of the songs that impacted me tonight is Dear Milagros [Querida Milagros], an anti-war song and the lyrics:

He visto a los hombres llorar como niños;
he visto a la muerte como un ave extraña,
planear en silencio sobre los caminos,
devorar a un sol que es tuyo y es mio. 

This translated to English as follows and listening to it haunts me:

I have seen men cry like children;
I have seen death as a strange bird,
To plan in silence on the paths, 

To devour a sun that is yours and mine.

We are living through an age of terror from the streets of Charleston in Virginia to Paris, London, Brussels, Madrid, Istanbul, Cairo, New York, Washington DC and on and on. Yesterday it returned to Spain in Barcelona.

Remain vigilant, seek justice, and Illegitimi non carborundum. ¡Viva España!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance issues new statement on ICCAS scandal at UM

"Institutional engagement between our beloved University of Miami and the murderous Castro Regime, and safeguarding the objectivity and integrity of ICCAS are essential concerns of our community." 

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance at the Brigade 2506 Museum and Library

August 17, 2017

Throughout the years, the University of Miami has been an important part of our Cuban-American community and the Cuban American community has greatly supported the University of Miami. Many generations of Cuban-Americans whose families made Miami their home have pursued their higher education studies at the University of Miami. As our community grew, so did the University. We are as much a part of the University of Miami as the University is a part of us. Our community has made significant contributions to the University’s growth and current reputation throughout the world for its educational excellence. The Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) has been a key component of this relationship, and it has objectively and factually reflected the truth about Cuba and our community since it was founded almost twenty years ago.

At a time when freedom of speech and academic freedom are challenged by the influence of both authoritarian and totalitarian regimes on campuses across the country, we must all remain vigilant about the Castro regime’s efforts to influence Cuban and Latin American studies at American universities. The issue of ICCAS has to do with our concern about hostile foreign government disinformation, and as the FBI has reported, the Castro regime’s recruitment efforts in the academic community in the United States.

A meeting has been scheduled for tomorrow by the President of the University of Miami with a limited number of members of our Cuban American community -as well as others- to discuss the controversy regarding ICCAS. Many prominent Cuban exile and Cuban American academics and intellectuals, as well as community leaders have been regrettably excluded from this meeting.  The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance as a plural, inclusive and democratic institution of this community, stands together as one to express our concerns and reiterate that in order to safeguard ICCAS’ future as a truthful, balanced and objective institute for Cuban and Cuban American studies within the University of Miami, we recommend the following:
  • That the University/Institute does not engage in any exchange with Cuban academic institutions because they are under the direct control of Cuba’s one-party totalitarian state.  As has been amply demonstrated, academia is seen as a tool of intelligence gathering and influence peddling by the Castro dictatorship.  We are steadfastly opposed to opening up the University of Miami to this poisonous exchange.
  • That the University/Institute rescinds the appointment of Dr. Andy Gomez as ICCAS interim director. Dr. Gomez has been publicly recognized for promoting ventures with commercial enterprises that do business with Cuba under its totalitarian regime. Dr. Gomez’ as interim director will further divide the Cuban American community from the University of Miami, rather than bridging the divide that has been created.
  •  That the University/Institute formally include the Cuban American community in the search committee for the new interim director and the permanent director of ICCAS.

It is our sincere hope that our fellow Cuban Americans attending tomorrow’s meeting make the above recommendations their own.  Institutional engagement between our beloved University of Miami and the murderous Castro Regime, and safeguarding the objectivity and integrity of ICCAS are essential concerns of our community.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

If nonviolence is not enough then violence is even less so

"Using violence is a stupid decision." - Dr. Gene Sharp, January 30, 2012

Violent resistance usually plays to the regime's strength

Read with great interest Julio M. Shiling's essay "Cuando la no violencia es insuficiente" [When nonviolence is insufficient] published in Pulso Venezolano and how it began with Ho Chi Minh's opinion that Gandhi would have abandoned the nonviolent struggle in a week if it had been the French, instead of the British, that he had to confront in India. The second critic of nonviolence cited in the essay Eric Arthur Blair, better known as George Orwell, also a man of the Left, carries out an analysis that limits the possibilities of success to a democratic polity where freedom of expression and association exist.

Ideological and theoretical objections to nonviolence 
Orthodox communists believe, as an intrinsic part of their doctrine, in class struggle and warfare as mechanisms of societal evolution. Mohandas Gandhi rejected this paradigm in favor of a nonviolent relationship between different social classes and racial groups.  The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of this new paradigm as the "beloved community."  The past century has demonstrated that class struggle and war can achieve things in the short term, but often times the new system inaugurated with great violence turns out worse than the old preexisting one. This was the case in Russia, China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Ethiopia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. 

An analysis of conflicts over the past century both violent and nonviolent against a variety of different types of regimes: democratic, authoritarian and totalitarian reveals that both Ho Chi Minh and George Orwell are wrong, nonviolent campaigns have been more successful than violent campaigns.  The more repressive and brutal a regime, the more effective nonviolent resistance and the less effective violent resistance. Democratic regimes that provide spaces for freedom of expression and association  are much more resilient in dealing with and containing dissent.

Nonviolent campaigns doubly more successful then violent campaigns
University Academics Maria J. Stephan and Erica Chenoweth in their 2008 study "Why Civil Resistance Works: The Strategic Logic on Nonviolent Conflict" compared the outcomes of 323 nonviolent and violent resistance campaigns from 1900 to 2006. They found that major nonviolent campaigns achieved success 53 percent of the time, compared with just under half that at 26 percent for violent resistance campaigns.

In his essay on the dissolution of the Soviet empire Shiling argues that, although a factor, nonviolence was of less importance than the shift from a containment policy under previous U.S. Administrations to a rollback policy under Ronald Reagan during the Cold War.  He also highlights the role of direct violent action against communist regimes in Grenada, Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistán, and El Salvador. Out of the five countries, one was a foreign invasion carried out by the United States (Grenada) while in the other four countries where indigenous movements received training and supplies to keep communists out of power (El Salvador) or force them out (Nicaragua, Angola, Afghanistán) things did not go well.  Communists took power (El Salvador) regained power (Nicaragua) stayed in power (Angola) or transitioned into something worse (Afghanistan) with the Taliban which involved blow back for the United States on September 11, 2001 with the attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon that claimed the lives of 3,000 Americans.

Difference between a foreign policy of nonviolent solidarity and one of appeasement 
The question that should logically arise is how did things turn out where nonviolence was the primary approach both in international and domestic politics? In Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union where the Reagan Administration along with UK's Margaret Thatcher, Pope John Paul II,  and Helmut Kohl pursued an aggressive but predominantly nonviolent approach highlighting and demonstrating solidarity with dissidents. Russia and Belarus today are authoritarian regimes, but the rest of Eastern Europe remains, at least nominally, democratic which is a vast improvement over where they were in 1989.

Sadly the case of the Tiananmen uprising of 1989 in China provides a counterpoint where Western powers, led by the United States, had embraced the communist regime as a strategic and commercial partner. Instead of siding with the dissidents the West protested the massacre publicly but privately sided with the communist autocracy and empowered it to the point where it is an even greater threat today. Chinese dissidents bravely engaged in nonviolent resistance and shook the power centers of the Chinese Communist regime, but sadly a policy of appeasement by Western countries reinforced and protected the dictatorship.

In his essay Schilling left out the violent revolution in Romania that is now viewed as a false dawn because the violence was perpetrated by factions within the communist elite that remained in power afterwards. The drive for change in Eastern Europe began with Poland and the nonviolent Solidarity labor movement that achieved real and lasting change. The question that arises is why was Romania different than other countries in Eastern Europe? The answer, in part, is that U.S. policy was different.

Ronald Reagan entered office on January 20, 1981 and eleven months later on December 13, 1981 the communist regime in Poland declared martial law and was cracking down on the Solidarity movement. 10,000 people were rounded up and about 100 died during martial law. Reagan in his Christmas Address on December 23, 1981 denounced the crackdown and outlined economic sanctions against Poland while demanding that the human rights of the Polish people be respected.

This was in marked contrast to the relationship with the regime in Romania. Out of all the countries of Eastern Europe, the United States had the closest diplomatic relations with Romania. This was due to the Nixon administration seeking to exploit differences between Romania and the Soviet Union. Nicolae Ceasescu denounced the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 and continued diplomatic relations with Israel maintaining an independent foreign policy from the Soviet Union. This would go on to be a bipartisan affair with Jimmy Carter hosting the Romanian dictator in Washington, DC in 1978. However in the end the Romanian regime was one of the most brutal in Eastern Europe and ended in a bloody and violent mess. Another negative legacy of détente.

There is a vast difference between a policy based in nonviolence and solidarity as was the Reagan Administration's policy, for the most part, in Eastern Europe with victims of repression and one of appeasement with the oppressor as was U.S. policy in Romania and China. Although on the surface they may appear similar, they are profoundly different.

Setting the record straight on nonviolence guru Gene Sharp
Shiling provides an overview of some of the important works of Gene Sharp and sums up his theory of power as follows: "Sharp's theory rests on the premise that the essence of power lies primarily in the subjects' obedience to political leadership. If the subjects do not obey the political power, argues the American theoretician, the leaders would not have power and consequently, the dictatorship collapses or withers." However this idea is not Gene Sharp's but belongs to Étienne de La Boétie, a French Judge, who elaborated on this in his 1552 work "The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude."

Gene Sharp's work is influenced by de La Boétie but is a lot more developed. Furthermore the case he makes is on how to self-liberate without depending on outside powers, that are often not reliable and driven by their own narrow self interests. Sharp's 2009 book available online: "Self-Liberation A Guide to Strategic Planning  for Action to End a Dictatorship  or Other Oppression" offers a clearer and more developed insight to his theoretical approach.  Critics of nonviolent resistance view it as an unarmed struggle when contrasted with violent resistance. Gene Sharp in 1990 at the National Conference on Nonviolent Sanctions and Defense in Boston contested that mistaken view:
"I say nonviolent struggle is armed struggle. And we have to take back that term from those advocates of violence who seek to justify with pretty words that kind of combat. Only with this type of struggle one fights with psychological weapons, social weapons, economic weapons and political weapons. And that this is ultimately more powerful against oppression, injustice and tyranny then violence."
Nonviolence theoretician Gene Sharp also recognizes that there is a moral dimension that cannot be ignored without dire consequences (as the recent drive to normalize relations with the Castro regime in Cuba demonstrated): "It is unreasonable to aim for a 'win- win' resolution. Brutal dictators and perpetrators of genocide do not deserve to win anything."

Charlotte Israel protested at Rosenstrasse to get her Jewish husband (1943)
German wives forced Hitler to return their Jewish husbands from death camps in 1943
It has been demonstrated that indigenous resistance movements confronting a brutal dictatorship have a much higher probability of success if they are nonviolent. Shiling mentions the Nazi death camp of Auschwitz, but fails to mention how in 1943 on Rosenstrasse street German wives married to Jewish men, who had been taken to concentration camps, organized a series of strikes and protests that forced the Nazis to return their husbands back from the death camps. Those men survived the Holocaust thanks to their wives courageous and nonviolent action.  The disturbing question that arises: What would have happened if instead of the violent Antifa movement, that fought the Nazis in street battles throughout the 1930s that escalated violence, opponents of the Nazis had followed Gandhi's advice at the time and resisted them nonviolently?

Although agree with Shiling that international support can help I do not believe that its absence relegates a nonviolent movement to "inspiring and epic heroic acts, but incapable of producing significant political changes on their own." Ironically that is an excellent description of what happens to a violent resistance movement without substantial outside logistical and material support. A nonviolent resistance that does an analysis of the situation on the ground, analyses the pillars of support for the regime and develops a strategy for undermining those pillars can accomplish a lot but it requires analysis, discipline, stubbornness and persistence.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami is worth saving

"The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." - William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming (1919)

Farewell Casa Bacardi?
 The Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies (ICCAS) has been an important point of reference for Cuban Studies based at the University of Miami with an international reputation that debunked disinformation and misinformation about the regime in Cuba. In 2017 the Center has published authors and academics Dr. Jaime Suchlicki, Dr. José Azel and Dr. Pedro Roig heading ICCAS.

Dr. José Azel with Yoani Sanchez at ICCAS
 World renown author and journalist Carlos Alberto Montaner annually gives a series of community lectures on the history of Cuba that are heavily attended.  The Institute opened its doors both to the Cuban American community and the Cuban dissident movement on the island.  All voices and views were welcome in an atmosphere of rigorous academic exchange.

Dr. Jaime Suchlicki with Rosa María Payá
 The director of the Institute, Professor Jaime Suchlicki is the co-editor of the tenth edition of Cuban Communism. Reviewers of the 901 page tome say that it "has widely come to be known as 'the Bible of Cuban Studies.'" The distinguished periodical Foreign Affairs said of it: "There is no handier guide to the Castro regime and the debates swirling around it." Dr. Suchlicki wanted "to create a place where young Cuban-Americans could come and learn about Cuba’s history and culture,” and for the last 18 years he created that space at the University of Miami. This tradition of academic excellence and seeking out the facts has made it a long time target of the Castro regime.

The Hurricane used cover for Castro's 2016 death but appropriate today with ICCAS
 Mike Gonzalez, currently a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation think tank, has written an important analysis of how foreign governments influence what Americans learn in college. The term "influence" is an understatement. He outlines how China, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Cuba have successfully censored and propagandized what is taught at American colleges and universities.  The section of the article on Cuba described what is now taking place at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies:
Long a thorn in the side of the communist dictatorship in Havana, ICCAS has constantly received vituperative attacks by the regime’s propaganda outlets. Never before, however, has it come under the threat of the university’s own leadership. Frenk is a long-standing and well-known admirer of the Cuban regime’s health practices. As Mexico’s health secretary in 2001, he said Cuba had the best health indicators in Latin America, and Mexico would benefit from learning about Cuba’s success.
Unfortunately for Frenk, the ICCAS kept saying the truth about Cuba’s failed health system, as it did on July 20 in a report called “Cuba’s Silence is Dangerous to Your Health.” That report notes that “After a century hiatus, cholera, malaria and dengue have returned to Cuba.” I post the report here because it seems to have disappeared from the ICCAS website. The move to close the ICCAS by Frenk, whose wife Felicia Knaul was installed as the university’s director of the Miami Institute of the Americas after he became president, proved highly controversial in Miami. He now says he never wanted to close the center at all, but only to change its leadership.
Frenk’s version of events is disputed by Jose Azel, one of the academics whom Jaime Suchliki, the esteemed ICCAS director, had to summarily dismiss when he was informed by the university’s provost on July 9 that he had to close the institute on August 15. In an article recently in El Nuevo Herald, The Miami Herald’s Spanish-language edition, Azel says “I have verified that Dr. Suchliki’s termination agreement explicitly requires him to ‘effect the cessation of operations for the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies’.”
When I passed by the Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) last week the moving truck was there and the movers were carrying everything out.  Last month when conflicting accounts emerged about what would become of ICCAS my experience in dealing with University bureaucrats as an undergraduate led me to believe Dr. Suchlicki, the faculty member with a half century of dedicated scholarship and service to the community, over Dr. Julio Frenk, the newly arrived bureaucrat with a fondness for Cuba's totalitarian healthcare system.

Dr. Suchlicki has not abandoned his mission but will now continue it outside of the University of Miami and that is a great shame. The lack of candor and coverup by the UM administration is an even greater shame and another black eye for academia.

Panel organized by the Cuban Democratic Directorate in 2015
For the record I was proud to have participated in several panel discussions over the years at the  Institute of Cuban and Cuban American Studies (ICCAS) and mourn its passing at the University of Miami.

Keeping ICCAS at the University of Miami and maintaining the tradition of critical inquiry established by Dr. Suchlicki in 1999 is sorely needed in today's academic environment where academic freedom is under assault. I pray that this little platoon of society against all odds is maintained at the University of Miami. Today is supposedly Dr. Suchlicki's final day at the University of Miami after a half century of service. I hope that this will not be the case and that Professor Suchlicki will be able to continue and oversee the transition to new leadership that will keep his dream alive at the University of Miami.