Cuban Regime Arrests Over 100 Activists on Human Rights Day

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Dec 12, 2014, 2:45 pm
Activists held protests in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday to demand recognition of human rights, resulting in hundreds of arrests
Activists held protests in Havana, Cuba, on Wednesday to demand recognition of human rights, resulting in hundreds of arrests. (@IntelGator)

EspañolThe Cuban government marked International Human Rights Day on Wednesday, December 10, in a unique way: by arresting over 120 political dissidents from across the island. The arrests included 67 members of the organization Ladies in White, comprised of the spouses of political prisoners. Also among those detained were two journalists from the independent media outlet 14yMedio.

José Daniel Ferrer, executive secretary of civil liberties group the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), also reported police attacks on several members of his organization. Ferrer, himself a former political prisoner, said that special forces had targeted several activists, including Juan Salgado Jurado, coordinator of the UNPACU chapter in the eastern city of Manzanillos.

In response, activists gathered as early as 11 a.m. local time on the same day at the corner of 23 and L Street in the middle of Havana. Berta Soler, a representative of the Ladies in White, led demonstrators in protests against the Cuban government.

Cuban security forces blocked access to protest sites in Las Tunas and Holguin, including the UNPACU headquarters in the Altamira neighborhood of Santiago de Cuba, preventing several activists from engaging in the demonstrations.

Dissident blogger and journalist Yoani Sánchez announced through social media that police had arrested two of her reporters for the digital media outlet 14yMedia. “[Police say] they have done something illegal,” Sánchez reported, “but all they’ve done is journalism!”

Our reporters @Luz_Cuba and Victor Ariel have been freed, a dozen other activists still detained.

According to Martha Beatriz Roque, a female police officer from Unit 111 used her pistol to beat Lady in White activist Adis Niria Dallet Urgelles. Regarding the protests, Beatriz told Martí Noticias that “the Cuban people are angry.… I can tell you there are a lot of people who believe in the freedom to speak their mind and say it anywhere.”

Ferrer relayed other incidents of police misconduct and claimed that a lieutenant colonel told Jurado, once he was detained, that he would have the option of either leaving the country or “make a lot of money” if he helped poison dissident activists Martín Ovidio and Ferrer.

In an interview with the PanAm Post, Lady in White Yohanna de la Cruz, who was present during the protests in Havana, confirmed police detained her two fellow activists until 9 p.m. local time on Wednesday. “In Cuba, they arrest you just for thinking differently,” she explained.

According 14yMedio, police still have dozens of activists from across the island in custody.

Cuba Celebrates Human Rights?

Castro regime apologists also held gatherings on Human Rights Day, and could be seen at the popular Coppelia ice cream parlor, shouting, “Long live Fidel, long live Raúl Castro!”

The state newspaper Granma wrote on Thursday that Cubans have every reason to celebrate human rights on the island, claiming the country sets an “example in its protection of children.” The newspaper also praised the island’s access to information and communication technology as public services.

“Plazas and parks around the country have hosted various activities that mark days of reflection and debate in university centers,” Granma wrote of Human Rights Day in Cuba, without a word on the protests and arrests by police.

Karel Becerra, International Relations secretary of Independent and Democratic Cuba (CID), noted the Cuban government’s apparent hypocrisy: “The unquestionable right of a human being is his life and his right to speak. Whoever violates these basic rights is executing a charade to conceal their true nature,” said Becerra, currently in exile in Argentina.

“A government that puts people to death by firing squad for speaking out or ‘endangering’ the government’s authority has no moral standing to speak of human rights,” the activist told the PanAm Post.

Calls for Freedom from Florida

In Miami, the Democracy Movement held an event called “Two Sides” or “From Piers to the Boardwalk” to ask the Cuban government to reunify Cuban families.

“[We want the government] to stop exploiting Cubans, and for the world to know that the Cuban nation is divided by the Castro brothers,” said Raúl Saul Sánchez, president of the movement.

Event organizers said the purpose of the gathering was to “raise awareness of the destruction of our families, and for the human rights of all Cubans and our brothers of other nationalities who suffer oppression and division.”

Translated by Guillermo Jimenez.

Belén Marty Belén Marty

Belén Marty is the Libertarian Latina, a journalist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She has lived in Guatemala, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States and is a former candidate for local office with Argentina's Libertarian Party. Follow @BelenMarty.

Juan Llanos: “Bitcoin Was Born Regulated”

By: Belén Marty - @belenmarty - Dec 12, 2014, 2:30 pm
ft-juan-llanos-bitcoin EspañolHe defines himself a rebel without a cause. Juan Llanos is from Argentina, but he's lived in the United States for 13 years, becoming a specialist in the international regulation of sending and receiving money. In 2014 alone, he's spoken to over 20 conferences about the latest developments in remittances. And, as was to be expected, he spoke at the latest Bitcoin Conference in Río de Janeiro on December 6-7. "Bitcoin was born already regulated," he told the audience, handling a complex topic with humor. He says that he's continually surprised by projects like Bitnation, which uses coding technology "to construct a legal system, including an incorruptible institutional-juridical regime." Llanos is well aware that regulation is an unpopular theme among the bitcoin community, who are generally reluctant for the state or the financial sector to influence the future of the digital currency, if not downright hostile towards outside interference. Bitcoin was born, after all, as an alternative to the world of excessive regulation. So we asked Llanos to clear some things up about this largely unknown area. What was your first encounter with bitcoin? I've worked in the United States for 13 years, in non-banking financial services. It's a huge area dedicated to money remittances and check conversions, among other things. It was here that I began to work on two aspects that later converged in bitcoin. One was money remittances, and the other was controlling financial crime: preventing money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The patterns of the financial industry are now being repeated in the world of bitcoin. After 9/11, where the terrorists had used Western Union to carry out their objectives, they issued a law two months later which put heavy controls over these kinds of transactions. I was developing a parallel career working on the issue of money laundering, and became an expert. It was here that I discovered that the patterns of the financial industry are now being repeated in the world of bitcoin. One day, in 2011, I was researching for a conference about new payment methods and financial crime via electronic means, and I came across bitcoin. I investigated it from the point of view of risk, to see if it could be used as a means of money laundering. Money laundering prevention is regulated by a supranational organization called the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that establishes the controls that states have to adopt to regulate financial services. It was through them that I was offering my services to various countries. One of the principles of money laundering prevention is the that the transmission of currency, or currency equivalents, should be regulated against the risk of laundering. The majority of modern norms on transmitting money were created between 2002 and 2006. And when did bitcoin emerge? In 2009. These norms that regulate the transmission of currency are applied to bitcoin for being precisely this, a means of transmitting money. I knew long before the bitcoin industry emerged that while everyone might be technology specialists and engineers, they didn't know anything about financial services. So I approached the New York [bitcoin] community and told them, "You're operating an illegal business. Be careful, because the law is going to turn up." And it did, during a meet-up in November and December [2012]. Later, on March 4, 2013, I met up with them again, and there happened to be some journalists there — because bitcoin was gathering steam then, becoming worth more, and people knew it had been used by the drugs market. I told them that bitcoin was already regulated, and that like any money-sending company it was subject to licenses and compliance programs (PayPal, Google Payments, Facebook Payments, Amazon Payments, Western Union, and others). I knew that they had to comply with the law that was already in force. I told them that bitcoin was already regulated, and that like any money-sending company it was subject to licenses and compliance programs. One week later, Finsen, the US regulatory body, came along and brought virtual currencies in line with the rules. So I was left looking like an "oracle" of sorts, and I began to earn the respect of the press and the bitcoin community. Also, at that time, I began to write about warning signs, judicial precedents and cases, and more, on my blog. So what would you say to those who have a company, for example a currency exchange, who are effectively making currency transfers? There's a difference between the United States and South America in that in the latter there aren't republics; they're only attempting to be democratic. By contrast, in the United States and Europe, more "civilized" countries, there's a republic. That's to say, there's a division of powers, the police are willing to enforce the law, and there are checks and balances on power. There are also larger sanctions and incentives to do things the correct way. So, society is very organized. In the rest of the world, there's not so much police power, and there's a delay in adopting new technologies. Even an Arab country like the United Arab Emirates, with a completely different culture, is waiting to see how the United States will come down on bitcoin regulation. So I'm asking myself, how can it be that in the Arab world they're looking to the United States? If they're waiting for the United States to decide on these issues, imagine what's going on in South America, where I believe there's often a delay, and a tendency to wait and see what "the leader" is saying. What's the relationship between the new regulations and the rising value of bitcoin?  In reality, there hasn't been any new regulation. What did happen was that preexisting regulation was more clearly applied to the new technology. The FATF's declaration in March 2013 said: "industry managers, administrators and virtual or real money changers in any direction, you are all remitters of money. So, therefore, the regulatory regime applies to you." But this regime already existed, and it was only a clarification that, from that date, it would also be applied to them. The same thing happened with taxes. In March of this year, almost a month before the declaration of new taxes, the [US] government judged bitcoin to be property, and not money. That's to say, they're going to charge capital gains tax, as if its like holding shares. But again, this was a clarification, not a new regulation. The first new regulation that's due to come out specifically regarding bitcoin is [New York-based] bitlicense. What will be the impact of this new regulation? Well, the business is already regulated. If they want to compel a bitcoin company to get a license for transmitting money, they can do it without any problem. There are some US states that are already handing out the same licenses that Western Union have. For example, CoinEx and Circle, which do bitcoin exchanges, have the same licenses as Facebook Payments, PayPal, etc. Translated by Laurie Blair.

Weekly E-Newsletter

Get the latest from PanAm Post direct to your inbox!

We will never share your email with anyone.