The Caribbean
cuba

Cuba approves harsh new penal code

The National Assembly of People’s Power, Cuba’s parliament, approved a new penal code as part of judicial reforms initiated after the enactment of a new constitution in April 2019. The new code reinforces sanctions for corruption, but also tightly controls unauthorized contacts with foreign organizations and individuals, and explicitly bans foreign financing of civic activities. Under the new code, those who give information to international organizations or individuals who have not been authorized by the government, face severe penalties. These include up to 30 years imprisonment and, in some cases, the death penalty. Human rights groups criticized the new legislation, warning it could have “catastrophic effects.” Ana Cristina Núñez, senior researcher for the Committee to Protect Journalists, said, “In a country where private media is illegal and journalists have no possibility of obtaining local funding, prohibiting foreign funding is a death sentence to independent journalism.” (Photo: Pixabay via Jurist)

Europe
karkhiv

UN Human Rights Council to investigate Russian violations in Ukraine

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted a resolution to establish an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate charges of gross violations by Russian forces in Ukraine. After holding a moment of silence for Ukrainian victims, HRC members passed the resolution overwhelmingly, in a 32–2 vote. The only two countries voting against were Russia and Eritrea. Significantly, China and Cuba abstained. (Photo of Kharkiv’s Freedom Square via Twitter)

The Caribbean
11J

Cuba: prisoners on hunger strike as mass trials begin

Reports from opposition activists in Cuba indicate that trials are opening in several cities for some 60 who were arrested during last year’s protest wave that began July 11, now popularly known as “11J.” The defendants are said to include at least five minors as young as 16. Those facing charges of “sedition” could be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison. More than 620 detainees are ultimately to stand trial over the 11J protests. Ten prisoners in Holguin who were already convicted and face high sentences are reported to have started a hunger strike. Sentences in their cases are expected next month. Trials are also said to be underway in Santa Clara, Mayabeque and Havana. (Photo: Havana Times)

The Caribbean
Osorbo

Imprisoned Cuban rapper on hunger strike

Supporters of imprisoned Cuban rap artist Maykel Castillo, better known by his stage name “El Osorbo,” warn that his life is in danger one week into a hunger strike, and that he has been removed to a “punishment cell” where he is being held incommunicado. Castillo is a leader of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of Cuban dissident artists and intellectuals, and co-author of the viral song “Patria y Vida,” which became an anthem of the protest wave across the island in July. He has been repeatedly arrested since 2015, including for protesting the controversial Decree 349, which places restrictions on artistic expression. He has been held at the maximum-security Pinar del Río prison since his May arrest for the vague crimes of “resistance” and “contempt.” He launched his total hunger and thirst strike in protest of his own detention and the crackdown on freedom of expression in Cuba. (Image: FreeMuse)

The Caribbean
Habana

Cuba: pre-emptive repression stifles protests

Plainclothes State Security in Havana pre-emptively shut down a “Civic March” that had been called by opposition networks. In addition to heavy deployment in the parks and squares, armed agents were stationed on rooftops around the iconic Capitolio building. What opposition website 14ymedio called pro-regime “vigilante groups” also gathered on street corners. According to independent human rights organization CubaLex, police arrested 11 people, while some 50 identified as key organizers were effectively “besieged” in their homes to forestall any public gathering. Those arrested had apparently attempted to gather in defiance of the security measures. A small group of youth was detained on the Paseo del Prado while shouting “Patria y Libertad“, slogan of the protest wave that shook Cuba in July. (Photo: 14ymedio)

Central America
Darién

Danger grows on Darién Gap migrant route

The Darién Gap, a dangerous jungle route used by a growing number of migrants trying to reach the United States from South America, has become even deadlier, according to Panama’s Forensic Sciences Institute. It reports over 50 migrant deaths to date in 2021, although the figure is believed to be far higher. Towns on the Colombian side of the border are swelling with migrants waiting to cross the Gap—mostly Haitians, Cubans and Venezuelans, but some from as far as Afghanistan and Burkina Faso. Colombian authorities say 67,000 migrants have passed through the border zone so far this year, more than 15 times the number in 2020. Former paramilitaries operating in the area are now preying on the migrants, who face rape, armed violence and extortion. (Photo: David González/TNH)

The Caribbean
Havana

Podcast: how do we respond to the Cuba protests?

In Episode 80 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the actual politics of the Cuban protests—and how much of the response by supposedly progressive forces in the United States has been highly problematic. While opposing the embargo, and the inevitable attempts by US imperialism to exploit and co-opt the protests, we must guard against words and actions that abet the repression. Hundreds have been detained and at least one person killed as the protests have been put down by security forces. By uncritically rallying around the regime and portraying the protests as CIA astroturf, we not only make ourselves complicit with rights abuses—we help bring about exactly what we fear, showing the protesters that their only allies in the US are on the political right. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo via Mal Salvaje)

The Caribbean
Capitolio

Mass protests break out across Cuba

Seemingly spontaneous protests broke out in Cuba, with demonstrations reported across the island—from Pinar del Río in the west to Santiago in the east. In Havana, hundreds gathered along the Malecón seawall, which was the scene of a brief uprising known as the Maleconazoin August 1994, amid the economic agony of the “Special Period.” The demonstrators later marched on the iconic Capitolio building. Slogans included “Freedom,” “Down with the dictatorship,” “We are not afraid,” “Homeland and life” (a reference to the official slogan “Homeland or death“), and “Díaz-Canel singao [jerk, asshole],” a reference to President Miguel Díaz-Canel. (Photo: Marcos Evora via Havana Times)

The Andes
FANB

FARC ‘dissidents’ bring insurgency to Venezuela

So-called “dissident” FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced last month that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. Venezuela’s National Bolivarian Armed Forces later announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But independent media in Venezuela report that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombia guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana. (Photo of captive soliders being released via FANB)

The Caribbean
havana

US returns Cuba to ‘state sponsors of terrorism’ list

The US Department of State has once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists.” Ironically, this is a reference to Havana’s hosting of peace delegations from Colombian guerilla groups in their efforts to broker an accord with Bogotá over the past six years. (Photo: Falkanpost/Pixabay)

The Caribbean
san isidro movement

Havana: dissident hunger-strikers arrested

Cuban police agents raided the headquarters of the dissident San Isidro Movement (MSI) in Old Havana and arrested the 14 activists who were inside the building, several of whom had been on hunger strike for the past week. Simultaneously, authorities cut off access to Facebook and Instagram across the island, in an apparent attempt to prevent images and reports of the raid from being disseminated. A tweet from MSI stated: “Agents of the dictatorship broke into our headquarters, savagely beat our compañeros, took them away and we do not know their whereabouts. We fear for their physical integrity.” Cuban authorities said the raid was carried out over a violation of pandemic restrictions. (Image via CiberCuba)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)