International Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity of the Castro Regime met in the U.S. Congress today.

Sylvia Iriondo addresses Justice Cuba in the Cannon Building.

Sylvia Iriondo addresses Justice Cuba in the Cannon Building.

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“The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.” – Milan Kundera

Today the Cannon Building of the U.S. Congress hosted an event that heard the public testimonies of the mother and father of Mario Manuel de la Peña, who was extrajudicially executed along with Armando Alejandre Jr, Carlos Costa, and Pablo Morales on February 24, 1996 in the Brothers to the Rescue shoot down, and they continued in their 21 year odyssey seeking justice for their son and the others killed that day on Castro’s orders. Three planes ventured out that day to search for and rescue Cuban rafters but only one plane returned. Sylvia Iriondo was on that plane and today she gave her testimony on what she experienced that terrible Saturday afternoon.

Some Cuban martyrs and victims of communism in Cuba

Some Cuban martyrs and victims of communism in Cuba

The International Commission for the Prosecution of Crimes Against Humanity of the Castro Regime, also known by the abbreviated term JusticeCuba, met in the U.S. Congress today in the Cannon Building and listened to the testimony of victims of cruel and unusual punishment, relatives of individuals extrajudicially executed by agents of the Castro regime, of Cuban political prisoners in the 1970s had been the victims of sonic attacks, and the harm done to Venezuela by the Castro regime’s military and intelligence services.

I had the difficult task of serving as an interpreter for: Jorge García Más, who lost 14 family members in the July 13, 1994 “13 de marzo” tugboat massacre; political prisoners Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez and Basilio Guzman who served 22 years in prison and recounted the beatings, sonic attacks, and mistreatment they and their compatriots were subjected to in Castro’s prisons and a member of the Venezuelan military  testified on the systematic penetration of Venezuelan institutions by the Castro regime and how it has turned Venezuela into a totalitarian regime.

Basilio Guzman (left) and Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez (right) testified today

Basilio Guzman (left) and Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez (right) testified today

Basilio Guzman was freed and forcibly exiled in 1984, after 22 years in prison, and flew to the United States along with 25 other Cuban political prisoners with the Reverend Jesse Jackson, who had petitioned for their release when he visited Cuba and met with Fidel Castro. Ernesto Díaz Rodríguez who was freed in 1991 also addressed the use of sound to mistreat political prisoners: “Although with other characteristics , in the summer of 1977, on the occasion were various Cuban political prisoners found ourselves in the punishment cells of the Combinado del Este prison, the prison authorities made use of the application of acoustic tortures with the intention of breaking our physical and mental states of health. In the area of the punishment cells where I had been confined during those days were also the political prisoners Luis Zuñiga, Miguel Angel Alvarez Cardenty, Servando Infante Jimenez, Remberto Zamora Chirino, Teodoro Gonzalez Alvarado, Sergio Bravo and Reinaldo Lopez Lima.

Listening to Jorge García Más, who lost 14 family members on July 13, 1994

Listening to Jorge García Más, who lost 14 family members on July 13, 1994

Rafael del Pino Siero, U.S. citizen, was another who inhabited those infernal jails. We knew of his personal differences with Fidel Castro, with whom he had shared a frustrated friendship. This was the apparent reason that in reprisal during many years they denied him adequate medical assistance to correct a serious infection that he had suffered in the bladder. In that way from the time of his arrest and imprisonment he had been obligated to carry, for years, with a catheter and plastic bag for the collection of urine. The accumulated suffering of this period of cruelty, added to the sonic tortures that together with us he was a victim of, were probably the cause during those days that motivated what the government defined as a suicide by this political prisoner in his punishment cell.” Although Ernesto Díaz went on to say that it was possible it was a murder covered up as a suicide. In reality, either way, Rafael del Pino Siero was a victim of the Communist tyranny of Cuba. Basilio Guzman described the after effects of the sonic attacks he suffered while in prison: “I have never been able to climb a ladder again, the doctor has forbidden me, because I feel that I have lost my stability since those days in prison.”

Congresswoman Illeana Ros Lehtinen and Congressman Mario Diaz Balart addressed the Commission and thanked them for their work and the need for it to continue in order to hold the Castro regime accountable.

Parents of Mario de la Peña address Justice Cuba in the Cannon Building

Parents of Mario de la Peña address Justice Cuba in the Cannon Building

Congressman Mario Diaz Balart tweeted: “[m]ust continue to condemn #humanrights abuses + brutal oppression of the Castro regime. Thank you to pro-democracy leaders, families of victims, + participants who shared their stories today in the halls of Congress #JusticeCuba”

Earlier in the day members of the JusticeCuba commission went to the Embassy of Cuba in Washington, DC to obtain visas to travel to Cuba to interview victims and oppressors. They were denied entry to the diplomatic compound. This should not have been a surprise.

The regime in Cuba refuses to be held accountable. Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Committee of the Red Cross have not had access to Cuban prisons for decades. Furthermore, former long term political prisoner and opposition leader Jorge Luís García Pérez “Antunez” was blocked from traveling out of Cuba to testify at this hearing.

All of this demonstrates that the Castro regime fears truth and memory because it leads to justice that would hold the oppressors accountable.

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