I hope you can read this!
AYEAR AGO Cuba's Communist government cracked down on nonviolent
dissidents, independent journalists, human rights activists, librarians
and teachers. Within weeks, 75 of them were in prison, sentenced
to terms ranging from 6 to 28 years after one-day closed trials.
Carried out while the world's attention was focused on the war
in Iraq, this was President Fidel Castro's attempt to destroy
a pro-democracy civil society that had been peacefully emerging.
A year later, the bad news is that those 75 political prisoners
are still locked away, in many cases under inhumane conditions.
The worse news is that Mr. Castro has gotten away with his crime:
He has set back the cause of freedom in Cuba, and suffered few
True, the Bush administration reacted to the arrests last year
by tightening some sanctions on Cuba -- cheap toughness from an
administration eager to please the Cuban exile community in Florida.
But Congress sent the opposite message, voting to end enforcement
of a travel ban. The European Union adopted some token sanctions.
But European trade and tourists continue to provide the hard currency
that props up Mr. Castro's regime. More help has come from Venezuela's
Hugo Chavez, a Castro wannabe who supplies his mentor with oil
on sweetheart terms. Irresponsible populists elsewhere in Latin
America, such as Argentina's Nestor Kirchner, have courted the
dictator; when the Argentine foreign minister visited Havana,
he declined to meet with spouses of the imprisoned democrats.
Those spouses have carried on their own brave campaign to report
on the cruel conditions in the prisons, despite harassment and
threats from the regime. According to a letter released last week
by seven international human rights groups, "many of the
imprisoned, such as economists Oscar Espinosa Chepe and Marta
Beatriz Roque, are not receiving adequate medical care for conditions
that, in some cases, have developed during incarceration and are
life-threatening. Others, like Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, have been
held in solitary confinement for months, denied family visits
and access to sunlight."
One of Cuba's foremost dissidents, Oswaldo Paya, who was not arrested,
released his own letter last week and said he and his followers
are still pursuing the Varela Project, a petition demanding a
referendum on democracy and human rights that has attracted more
than 25,000 signatures. "They suffer, and their families
and friends suffer with them," Mr. Paya said of the prisoners.
"But they have not given up, and we will not give up. . .
. From the darkness of their cells, they are proclaiming the Cuban
Spring, which is the hope of all people." The failure of
the international community to hold Mr. Castro accountable for
his crimes against some of Cuba's best writers, journalists and
teachers means that that spring probably will not arrive this
year. But even Mr. Castro, feebly clinging to his failed ideology
at age 77, must know in his heart that it is coming.
did read it, and many other articles like it.
article written almost a year prior to the crackdown in which
Vladimiro Roca and Elizardo Sanchez practically predict Castro's
James Cason's overt support of the dissident movement. As Congressman
McGovern said in an interview for my documentary (I'm paraphrasing),
don't know what Cason was thinking when he gave money to those
if he was trying to eliminate Castor's opposition, he succeeded.
in jail.... and they wouldn't be if Cason had been more of a diplomat."
that the people of Cuba-- both exiles and those still
living there, those who oppose their government and those who
simply try to
live their lives as best they can-- are treated as pawns in a
chess game between Castro and whoever happens to be in the Whitehouse
be a better way to alleviate the suffering in Cuba. Forty years
of our current policy has not. I was not a big supporter of President
Reagan, but it seems his constructive engagement policy in South
fruit. Perhaps Elizardo Sanches or Oswaldo Paya could be the next
is not meant to defend Castro, and, in its entirety, I don't
think it does. It is meant to question the validity of our forty-year
and examine its effects on the innocent people of Cuba who have
not only under Castro-- but also under the effects of the US blockade.
Leading dissidents say Bush's continued
hard line against Cuba won't advance democracy
By Anita Snow
May 28, 2002
HAVANA - Communist
officials said Monday that President Bush's new Cuba
initiative marked no real change in hard-line policies toward
while leading dissidents feared that continued U.S. trade sanctions
harm their efforts to force a democratic opening.
have to be made but changes have to be made on both sides,"
Vladimiro Roca, who was released from prison earlier this month
months short of his five-year sentence.
negotiation and reconciliation" will help more than continued
tough U.S. policies, Roca said, reacting to Bush's speech Monday
Washington on Cuba policy. "The prickly relationship between
countries ... can hurt our hopes for advancing a transition to
Cuban officials slammed Bush's statement. "This initiative
is not new,"
Rogelio Polanco, editor of the Communist Youth daily Juventud
during the government's daily "Round Table" television
program. The Cuba
policy that Bush described on Monday is "politically obsolete,"
he said. "It
is more of the same of the old and failed political toward Cuba,"
Roca and veteran
human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, both of whom
watched coverage of the president's speech on CNN, said that Bush's
was more moderate than they originally expected. They said they
several parts of it positive, especially Bush's call for a resumption
postal service between the two countries and his reference to
Project reform referendum.
Jimmy Carter also mentioned the Varela Project last week in
an unprecedented live speech to the Cuban people. It was the first
most Cubans had ever heard of the petition drive, which has gathered
than 11,000 voters' signatures.
seeks a national vote on guarantees of civil rights such as
freedom of speech, as well as the right to own a business, an
political prisoners and electoral reform. Cuban officials have
hope for its success.
rest of (Bush's) speech was more of the same, the same prickly
from the time of the Cold War that has characterized the relationship
between the countries for 40 years," Sanchez said. Sanchez
added that Bush's
address "remained far behind" Carter's. "Carter's
speech reflected the point
of view of the great silent majority in both countries who want
ions," he said.
said they worried that Bush's promise to increase U.S.
government funding for non-governmental groups working with the
could undermine their efforts in Cuba. "Any kind of financial
help from any
government for our work is unacceptable," Sanchez said. "That's
true of a government such as Washington which has such very bad
government often tries to discredit human rights and other groups
on the island by accusing them of receiving U.S. government funds,
that opposition groups here regularly deny.
In his address,
Bush said he won't heed calls to lift the Cuban trade
embargo unless Fidel Castro (news - web sites) releases political
conducts independently monitored elections and accepts a list
of tough U.S.
conditions for a "new government that is fully democratic."
which aides said has been in the works since January, came a
week after Carter traveled to Cuba and urged the communist government
embrace democracy and called on the United States to lift the
trade embargo and restrictions on American travel to the island.
other critics argue that the restrictions have failed to force
change in Castro's government while making life tough on ordinary
a link to another article that discusses the alleged funding of
the dissidents by USAID. Surely if the Cubans provided economic
and logistical support to an organization of American dissidents,
those American dissidents, too, would find themselves in jail.
Castro's response was predictable-- especially predictable, it
would seem to me, by seasoned diplomats and politicians. http://www.ciponline.org/cuba/humanrights/USfunding.htm
By the way...
with whom am I conversing?
To: John Locke
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 10:14 AM
Subject: Re: A washingtonpost.com article
What is the problem? What is wrong about helping
the Cuban people to be Free?Did you see the Cubans that arrive
to Broward Ct. in FL this week ,do you think those people risk
their life for nothing. Is better to die ,that not to be Free.
And about the Embargo which by the way: is a mi th,Cuba has relations
with a lot of countries that feed him.The problem is nobody has
a will to work in Cuba.
The problem is : the goods are for the Gov. and the tourist ,not
for the people.
If Castro wants the best for his people,there is a way:FREE ELECTIONS!!!!
Is this to much to ask?????????
There is nothing
wrong with trying to help the Cuban people. Giving them financial
help to organize against their government is not helping them though,
it is marking them for harassment and condemning them to imprisonment.
Elizardo Sanchez is one of Cuba's prominent dissidents. HE and others
in his group think financial support from the US is a bad idea.
No, helping the Cuban people is not too much to ask. We just have
very different ideas about what would help. We've tried "helping"
THIS way for 40 years. Maybe it's time to try another approach.
To: John Locke
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 8:38 PM
Subject: Re: A washingtonpost.com article
needs is Free Elections and that is what the Cubans wants .
is so sure of his majority,why he refuses to do so.
Yes, I have
a very different idea, because I was 16 years old when I was arrested
in Cuba for being a Catholic and my family make the painfully
decision of leaving the Country, my husband family still in Cuba,
i was able to communicate with them few time in the Internet,but
Castro made it clear that if he finds anybody using the Internet
for personal communications it will be punish,what kind of man
is he,that he denied to the Cuban people all kind of humans rights.
At the same
time,if we don't send dollars to our family they don't eat or
find medicines,and few of our relatives in Cuba are Physicians
And let me
tell you : when Elian Gonzalez was sent back to Cuba, one day
I was protesting with a group of friends in front of the Cuban
Interest Building in Washington DC and the people inside the Embassy
came out and attack us physically and verbally,incredible.
I have to
many scars and I am very thankful of this USA ,that gave me a
new chance to raise my family,today a grandmother of 10 ,still
cry for my Mother land that deserves to be Free is incredible
to me ,that smart people doesn't understand our pain and still
believe in Castro lies: HE IS THE HITLER OF AMERICA and his paranoia
is follow by to many crazy or dreamers.
I was a child when he took Cuba's power and I believe in promises
until I saw who he was ,he doesn't care about his people ,only
power and more power; and this justify everything for him.
Poor people that escape in any kind of transportation to find
Peace and Liberty,like Frank and my husband did.
because the Cuban people never will benefit from this, he eats
well and if you to Cuba as a tourist ,you will too.
you for explaining your personal experience. We both agree that
things need to change in Cuba. We just differ on how that change
should come about. There is evidence that leads me to believe that
constructive engagement (the way we dealt with South Africa and
the way we're dealing with China) have more positive impact than
the current policy toward Cuba has. You disagree and after what
you've told me, I understand why.
Those in charge in the Bush administration agree
with you, and even if Kerry wins, from what I've read, I don't
think he's thinking of relaxing the Embargo or travel restrictions,
either. So you should be confident that the US policy won't change
is, I don't think Castro's policy will change without some sort
of gesture on our part. Even a very small gesture that leads to
a very small change would be better for the Cuban people than
nothing. Then, after a series of mutual steps, things could actually
improve. I know that sounds unrealistic to you, and I'm not saying
change would happen over night, but the alternatives are either
violence, or more of the same. I won't advocate violence. And
I don't think more of the same is helpful to the Cuban people.
I'm very happy you've been able to make a home
for yourself in the USA and I hope, one day, you and your relatives
all have the opportunity to be happy.
Thank you for having this email discussion with