Personal Message:
I hope you can read this!

A washingtonpost.com article:
Cuba's Spring

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 consequences.

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.


My reply:

Thanks. I did read it, and many other articles like it.

Here's an article written almost a year prior to the crackdown in which
Vladimiro Roca and Elizardo Sanchez practically predict Castro's response to James Cason's overt support of the dissident movement. As Congressman Jim McGovern said in an interview for my documentary (I'm paraphrasing), "I don't know what Cason was thinking when he gave money to those dissidents... if he was trying to eliminate Castor's opposition, he succeeded. They're all in jail.... and they wouldn't be if Cason had been more of a diplomat."

It's unfortunate 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 merciless chess game between Castro and whoever happens to be in the Whitehouse at the time.

There MUST 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 Africa bore fruit. Perhaps Elizardo Sanches or Oswaldo Paya could be the next Nelson Mandela.

My documentary 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 policy and examine its effects on the innocent people of Cuba who have to live-- not only under Castro-- but also under the effects of the US blockade.

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Leading dissidents say Bush's continued hard line against Cuba won't advance democracy
By Anita Snow
Associated Press
May 28, 2002

HAVANA - Communist officials said Monday that President Bush's new Cuba initiative marked no real change in hard-line policies toward the island, while leading dissidents feared that continued U.S. trade sanctions could harm their efforts to force a democratic opening.

"Changes have to be made but changes have to be made on both sides," said Vladimiro Roca, who was released from prison earlier this month just two months short of his five-year sentence.

"Dialogue, negotiation and reconciliation" will help more than continued tough U.S. policies, Roca said, reacting to Bush's speech Monday in Washington on Cuba policy. "The prickly relationship between the two countries ... can hurt our hopes for advancing a transition to democracy." Cuban officials slammed Bush's statement. "This initiative is not new," Rogelio Polanco, editor of the Communist Youth daily Juventud Rebelde, said 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," Polanco said.

Roca and veteran human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, both of whom watched coverage of the president's speech on CNN, said that Bush's address was more moderate than they originally expected. They said they found several parts of it positive, especially Bush's call for a resumption of postal service between the two countries and his reference to the Varela Project reform referendum.

Former President Jimmy Carter also mentioned the Varela Project last week in an unprecedented live speech to the Cuban people. It was the first time that most Cubans had ever heard of the petition drive, which has gathered more than 11,000 voters' signatures.

The proposal seeks a national vote on guarantees of civil rights such as freedom of speech, as well as the right to own a business, an amnesty for political prisoners and electoral reform. Cuban officials have given little hope for its success.

"The rest of (Bush's) speech was more of the same, the same prickly rhetoric 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 better relat ions," he said.

Both dissidents said they worried that Bush's promise to increase U.S. government funding for non-governmental groups working with the Cuban people could undermine their efforts in Cuba. "Any kind of financial help from any government for our work is unacceptable," Sanchez said. "That's especially true of a government such as Washington which has such very bad relations with Cuba."

The Cuban government often tries to discredit human rights and other groups on the island by accusing them of receiving U.S. government funds, a charge 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 prisoners, conducts independently monitored elections and accepts a list of tough U.S. conditions for a "new government that is fully democratic."

Bush's speech, which aides said has been in the works since January, came a week after Carter traveled to Cuba and urged the communist government to embrace democracy and called on the United States to lift the 40-year-old trade embargo and restrictions on American travel to the island.

Carter and other critics argue that the restrictions have failed to force a change in Castro's government while making life tough on ordinary Cubans.

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And here's 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?


From: __________
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.

From: ____________
To: John Locke
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 8:38 PM
Subject: Re: A washingtonpost.com article

What Cuba needs is Free Elections and that is what the Cubans wants .

If Castro 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.

Embargo yes, because the Cuban people never will benefit from this, he eats well and if you to Cuba as a tourist ,you will too.

God Bless!


Thank 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 anytime soon.

My problem 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 me.