June 21, 2005, 8:17 a.m.
Something remarkable happened on Saturday night. The Cuban Interests Section in
Washington held a little soirée. That's not so remarkable. What's remarkable is that it was brilliantly disrupted by freedom activists. A group called Professionals in the City arranged the soirée. They're described as "a social and networking organization" (and you can see for yourself, at their website). Let me give you a taste of an article about the event. The complete article is found here, on a website called TheRealCuba. Scroll down to the piece headed "Freedom network outdoes Castro's Security in its own nest."
Saturday night Cuban officials expelled a group of peaceful advocates from a gala at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington for distributing cards allusive to repression in Cuba. Party organizers had ignored numerous calls and e-mails objecting to Cuba's totalitarian regime and asking for the event to be canceled or the venue changed. The black tie event at $89-99 per guest was organized by Professionals in the City, a social and networking organization. It had been heavily promoted as an extremely unique opportunity "to explore the culture, cuisine, and music of Cuba, one of the most fascinating and misunderstood nations of our time." Partygoers were promised "a true Havana evening," at the "gorgeous mansion with thick red carpet and crystal chandeliers." The house, built in 1917, was once the official embassy of Cuba. A scrumptious buffet, flowing alcohol, music, and dance followed salsa lessons held two days before.
Okay, here's where it gets interesting. Some freedom-and-democracy types who had infiltrated the event started to hand out cards, which highlighted oppression in Cuba (e.g., the imprisonment of Oscar Biscet, among many others). The activists were quickly set upon by Castro's agents and thrown out.
In one case, a woman . . . was surrounded by several male agents and angrily told she had to leave as they grabbed her cards. When she refused to hand over the cards, two agents squeezed her strongly by both arms. As they pulled her down the stairs, she began crying out "Freedom for Cuba." On Sunday, she proudly showed off her bruises as her father's day gift to her dad, killed when she was a toddler at the Bay of Pigs after he had fought under Castro for democracy in Cuba.
Nice going, sister. Same with all the rest. http://www.nationalreview.com/impromptus/impromptus200506210817.asp
Also see http://www.therealcuba.com/
The Washington Times
By James Morrison
Published June 21, 2005
Cuban hustle Pro-democracy advocates bought tickets to a black-tie reception at the Cuban Interests Section over the weekend and then used the occasion to hand out leaflets about human rights abuses under Fidel Castro before security guards evicted them. Maria Werlau, one of the organizers of the protest, was slightly injured by the guards when they forcibly removed her from the Saturday night reception. She later showed off her bruised arms, calling them a Father's Day gift to her dad, who was killed during the failed attempt to overthrow Mr. Castro in the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion. "We were peaceful, but we decided to give them a taste of their own medicine," Ms. Werlau said yesterday. The 11 protesters included two American lawyers with no Cuban heritage. The others were Cuban-Americans. The party was organized by a group called Professionals in the City and heavily advertised as an opportunity "to explore the culture, cuisine and music of Cuba, one of the most fascinating and misunderstood nations of our time." Kevin Chaffee, society editor for The Washington Times, said Cuban officials refused to allow his reporter to cover the event. Ms. Werlau said, "The human rights advocates passed an inspection at the door as Cuban agents carelessly checked names of arriving guests against a long list of alleged opponents to the Castro regime. "Once upstairs, the pretenders proceeded to taste the food and drink and engage in conversation with young professionals in attendance." The protesters circulated among the crowd and distributed cards with messages about human rights abuses in Cuba. "The side of one card highlighted Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Biscet," Ms. Werlau said. "One card was dedicated to the thousands of victims of the Castro regime and cited 78 documented cases of minors executed or assassinated."
Cuban officials soon realized what was going on, confiscated the cards and ordered the group to leave. Most left peacefully and joined another protest across from the Cuban diplomatic mansion on 16th Street Northwest. However, Ms. Werlau refused to hand over her cards. Two Cuban officials grabbed her by her arms and pulled her down a flight of stairs to the door. All the while, she said she was "crying out, 'Freedom for Cuba.' " A spokesman for the Cuban Interests Section did not respond to a request for a comment. Tajikistan abuse The United States yesterday denounced the government of Tajikistan for arresting an opposition politician who has vowed to run against the president next year. Stephan Minikes, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, said Makhmadrouzi Iskandarov was kidnapped in Moscow after Russia refused to extradite him. Mr. Minikes said Mr. Iskandarov was "involuntarily returned" to Tajikistan, where he was imprisoned on terrorism charges. "We further note that Mr. Iskandarov has been denied regular and unobserved access to his legal counsel and that his family has been unable to meet him," Mr. Minikes said in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe. Lebanese 'milestone' Lebanon's parliamentary elections were a "milestone" on the country's "transformation" after three decades of Syrian domination, the U.S. ambassador in Beirut said yesterday. "We have full confidence that the parliament and the forthcoming Cabinet in Lebanon will be committed to the type of genuine political, institutional and economic reforms that the Lebanese people so desire and so deserve," Ambassador Jeffrey Feltman told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Mahmud Hammud. Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. http://www.washingtontimes.com/world/20050620-100323-7837r.htm
June 21, 2005
A Father's Day gift to remember (UPDATED)
Remember the Black Tie Gala at the Cuban interests section in DC we wrote about last week? Well, the party went on as planned this past saturday but there were a couple snags. Not only was a protest staged in front of the building, but the party was infiltrated by anti-castro Cuban-Americans and Americans. These peaceful advocates were expelled from the premises when it was learned they were passing out cards delineating fidel castro's violations of civil and human rights. From the Real Cuba, here's a moving statement from Maria Werlau of the Free Society Project, one of the protests organizers:
Freedom network outdoes Castro's Security in its own nest
Monday, June 20, 2005. Saturday night Cuban officials expelled a group of peaceful advocates from a gala at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington for distributing cards allusive to repression in Cuba. Party organizers had ignored numerous calls and e-mails objecting to Cuba's totalitarian regime and asking for the event to be canceled or the venue changed. The black tie event at $89-99 per guest was organized by Professionals in the City, a social and networking organization. It had been heavily promoted as an extremely unique opportunity "to explore the culture, cuisine, and music of Cuba, one of the most fascinating and misunderstood nations of our time." Partygoers were promised "a true Havana evening," at the "gorgeous mansion with thick red carpet and crystal chandeliers." The house, built in 1917, was once the official embassy of Cuba. A scrumptious buffet, flowing alcohol, music, and dance followed salsa lessons held two days before. The human rights' advocates passed an inspection at the door as Cuban agents carelessly checked names of arriving guests against a long list of alleged opponents to the Castro
regime. Once upstairs, the pretenders proceeded to taste the food and drink and engage in conversation with young professionals in attendance. Shortly into the evening, the small groups began handing out three different versions of glossy 4x6 cards with pictures and messages allusive to oppression in Cuba on both sides. One cited a Human Rights Watch report on the denial of basic rights to Cubans. Another card showed a lavish buffet at a tourist hotel on the island, banned to Cubans while they live under rationing on an average monthly wage of US$10. The side of one card highlighted Amnesty International prisoner of conscience Dr. Oscar Biscet. One card was dedicated to the thousands of victims of the Castro regime and cited 78 minors executed and assassinated. Willing takers were also given small stickers reading "We support freedom in Cuba," which activists had put on their clothing. The human rights defenders were friendly to all partygoers and suspected agents alike and mindful of not interfering with their enjoyment. Within a few minutes, the watching army of security agents and collaborators encircled the activists, mostly dispersed in small groups, taking their cards and demanding they leave. All left when approached without resisting, quickly escorted by Cuban agents to the front gate, where DC police were stationed. They proceeded to join the street protest on the other side of the street. In one case, a woman left on her own was surrounded by several male agents and angrily told she had to leave as they grabbed her cards. When she refused to hand over the cards, two agents squeezed her strongly by both arms. As they pulled her down the stairs, she began crying out "Freedom for Cuba." On Sunday, she proudly showed off her bruises as her father's day gift to her dad, killed when she was a toddler at the Bay of Pigs after he had fought under Castro for democracy in Cuba. Upon entry to the party, organizers at the door had directed guests cleared for advance payment to proceed for screening by Cuban personnel against a rejection list of political opponents. Michael Karlan, who runs Professionals in the City, told some of the advocates who confronted him as they were escorted out that they would have their tickets reimbursed. The young professionals who hastily assembled to make this gesture for human rights came together to advance liberty for Cuba. Some have been participants of organized human rights groups or initiatives, all are U.S. citizens, and several were not of Cuban heritage. A D.C. lawyer with no family or cultural links to Cuba showed strong leadership in coordinating the effort. Because the party was held on the eve of Fathers' Day, another lawyer joined in to pay a tribute to his father, who had fought in the Bay of Pigs. One business entrepreneur's grandfather had spent long years as a political prisoner. All overcame the fear of physical harm or reprisal to speak on behalf of the silenced Cuban people, ruled by force and fear for 46 years by the Castro dictatorship.
Cuban diplomats and security agents have a history of beating peaceful demonstrators all over the world. In January 2004, Agence France-Presse journalist Jorge Carlos Forbes was attacked by Cuban security agents accompanying Cuban diplomats at an art exhibition in Paris. In April 2004, a Cuban official assaulted the Executive Director of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba inside a United Nations building in Geneva as U.N. guards rushed to protect him from other Cubans. In 2003, Reporters Without Borders activists, including its Secretary-General Robert Menard, were beaten by Cuban embassy staff in Paris. In 2000, a group of men and women was attacked by ten "diplomats" in front of the Cuban Interests Section in Washington in full view of U.S. Secret Service agents, one who was injured in their defense. The U.S. and Cuba broke diplomatic relations in 1961 after the Castro government seized U.S. properties of over $1.8 billion and began subverting Latin American democracies. In 1977, during the Carter Administration, the United States and Cuba established Interests Sections to carry out diplomatic and consular activities. Both are respectively under the protection of the Embassy of Switzerland. A 2003 State Department report states that the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba (USINT) "operates in a hostile environment manufactured by the Government of Cuba. USINT personnel are treated to a steady diet of officiallysanctioned provocations, surveillance, recruitment attempts, and harassment." Jorge of the Real Cuba has a photo of one of the activists being excorted out of the building. Update: Jay Nordlinger of the National Review writes about this in his Impromptus today. He even mentions Jorge's site, TheRealCuba.com. Way to go!
http://www.paxety.com/Archive/20050621CubanCocktailPart.html The Cuban Cocktail Party
Tuesday, June 21, 2005 By: Juan Paxety
I've written before about the big cocktail party at the Cuban Interest Section in Washington, D.C. It appears it was infiltrated by some couragous young folks last night. From netforcuba.org: Cuban Interest Section is Infiltrated By Younger Generation Cuban Americans by Beatriz M. Bezos
In fulfillment with one of the primary objectives of The Domino Network, education, Maria Teresa Arguelles joined a group of Cuban Americans and Americans who infiltrated a gala hosted by the organization Pros in the City and the Cuban Interest Section at the former Embassy of Cuba in Washington DC this past Saturday evening. The infiltration was the brainchild of Maria Werlau, a prominent activist from the New York/ New Jersey area and a fellow activist from the same area. Younger generation Cuban Americans comprised the group of infiltrators along with liberty loving Americans. The diverse group lives in various cities, including Chicago and the New York, New Hampshire, South Florida, and Metropolitan Washington areas, and belongs to various generations. The group that penetrated the Cuban Mission was able to bypass the security apparatus of the Cuban regime even though all guests had to be cleared by a Cuban security team before entering the party. Among the group were key individuals who recently had spoken publicly in the Washington area about the violations of human, civic, political and labor rights inside Cuba. During the gala, the group distributed cards with photos of the Cuba enjoyed by tourists, contrasted with photos of the terrible conditions in Cuba and the sad reality of oppression and injustice. Surrounded by the vigilant eye of the Cuban security group, the group bypassed the vigilance and was able to interact with the guests, even able to converse with them. When the security agents discovered the cards in the hands of the gala guests and laid on tables through out the rooms, they began trying to identify the infiltrators. As security agents identified the participants, they were removed from the premises, some under force. Part of the group was able to stay at the gala, without being identified by the security agents. A fearless young Cuban American, after having achieved his goal, pasted stickers demanding freedom for Cuba on his clothing and face and was summarily removed from the premises. The last two participants remaining inside the interest section were Maria Teresa and Guillermo Vallejo, a political science student in Chicago and member of The Domino Networkâ€™s working group, Domino University Group. They had the opportunity to challenge the consul confronting him about the Cuban reality and the overall lack of freedom. Vallejo reminded the consul of Cubaâ€™s incursion in Latin American and African governments and the involvement of his boss in the Bogotazo. At this time the consul had already alerted security and Arguelles and Vallejo were closely followed.
Ms. Arguelles and Mr. Vallejo proceeded to approach the American organizer of the gala event, thanking him for the opportunity to share the Cuban reality with the group of professionals that participated in the gala event that evening. With dignity and closely followed by Cuban security agents, Arguelles and Vallejo descended the beautiful staircase to the entrance of the main lobby. As they exited, they assured the agents that they will return to the embassy, the day that it represents a free and sovereign Cuba. The group of infiltrators was accompanied by a group of demonstrators outside the building who received the black tie gala guests with large posters of Human Rights violations and Political Prisoners in Cuba and waving American and Cuban flags. Arthur Estopinan, chief of staff of Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, with the support of Congressman Jim Sessenbrenner, organized the demonstration. Pro Democracy activists from Colombia, El Salvador and Nicaragua joined the Cuban Americans demonstrators outside the compound. Keeping a protective watch over the Cuban Americans inside the gala, key individuals outside the compound kept a protective vigilance via instant communication and visual surveillance of the gates of the compound. The group of demonstrators left the area quietly but remained in the area maintaining vigilance until all members of the infiltrating group were safely outside the Cuban mission Update - The Real Cuba has more - plus a photo of one of the ladies being thrown out of the party. Update - Val at Babalublog has more, too. And be sure to read the comments that I'm sure will be posted at his site.