Skip to comments.US deeply concerned by failing health of jailed Cuban dissident
Posted on 07/30/2003 1:55:38 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States expressed deep concern about the health of jailed Cuban dissident Marta Beatriz Roque and accused Havana of deliberately mistreating her and other incarcerated foes of Fidel Castro's communist government.
The State Department also demanded that Cuba immediately release Roque and 74 other dissidents who were arrested in a widespread crackdown on Castro opponents in March and sentenced to lengthy jail terms.
"The United States is deeply concerned over the failing health of Cuban political prisoner Marta Beatriz Roque," spokesman Richard Boucher said in a statement.
Roque's family has said she is in critical condition and was transferred last week to a military hospital last week due to high blood pressure, chest pain and nose bleeds.
"Her health has worsened since her incarceration," Boucher said. "The Cuban government should provide her with the best possible medical treatment."
He said Roque and the other 74 prisoners were being held in inhumane conditions, with little sanitation, contaminated water and nearly inedible food.
"The Cuban government appears to be going out of its way to treat these prisoners inhumanely," Boucher said.
"It should immediately cease this practice and, at the minimum, allow the appropriate humanitarian organizations to monitor the treatment of its political prisoners, whose only real crime was to call for peaceful democratic change in Cuba," he said.
"Ms Roque and all of the other political prisoners should be released immediately," Boucher added.
Roque, an economist who heads the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, an umbrella organization of dissident groups, is serving a 20-year sentence.
One man who has thought long and hard about this is Armando Valladares. He is the most famed of the dissidents, the author or the memoir Against All Hope, one of the most powerful testaments of this age. Valladares persevered through years of imprisonment and torture, showing almost unfathomable courage, of every kind: physical, political, spiritual. Eventually he came to the United States, where he has devoted his life to truth-telling. Valladares has earned the designation "the Cuban Solzhenitsyn." One of the most bracing things President Reagan ever did, of many was name Valladares U.S. delegate to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.***
Jeff Jacoby: Cuba's jailed heroes*** Chaviano refused to be intimidated. Government goons broke into his home and beat him up. Still he persisted in speaking out. Early in the morning of May 7, 1994, a man he didn't know came to his door, delivered a sheaf of papers, and left. Moments later, the security police raided the house. They made a great show of finding the planted document, which they seized as ''evidence.'' Chaviano was arrested and held for nearly a year before learning that he would be charged with ''revealing state secrets'' and ''illicit enrichment.''
His trial was a farce. It was closed to the public, but the courtroom was packed with state security agents. Chaviano was not allowed to see the evidence against him or to call witnesses in his own defense. His conviction was a foregone conclusion; his sentence was 15 years. That was eight years ago. Today he is locked in the maximum-security Combinado del Este prison; his wife is permitted to visit him once every two months. His health has deteriorated - he suffers from an ulcer and respiratory problems - but his ideals remain intact. ''His spirit is strong,'' his wife told me recently. ''He gives me strength.''***
Cuba Travel Advisory Castro beckons tourists as he tortures a blind, Christian human rights activist***In March Mr. Gonzalez took up a peaceful protest with nine other human rights activists to call attention to the beating of an independent journalist. For this he was beaten with a gun butt and arrested. His wife says that he and seven of the other protesters are being held in prisons far from their homes and are being physically and psychologically tortured. Mr. Gonzalez has been stripped of his cane and his Braille Bible. His wife also says that he spent three days in one of the tiny cells that Cuban prisoners call "the drawer." This horrible form of torture is well-documented in Armando Valladares's "Against All Hope." She says he has been told that if he cooperates, his conditions will improve.***
Mr. Castro's Prisoners*** Then there is Leonardo Miguel Bruzon Avila, president of the 24th of February Movement -- named for both a turning point in the Spanish-American War and the day in 1996 when two civilian aircraft carrying four members of the Cuban American Brothers to the Rescue movement were shot down over international waters by Cuban fighter jets. Mr. Bruzon was merely planning a peaceful public ceremony when he was arrested Feb. 23; since then he has been held without trial. In late August, in protest of the conditions under which he and some 230 other Cuban political prisoners are being held, he began a hunger strike. Now, according to his family, he is near death at a military hospital. His family says his body is covered with bruises and he is coughing blood; his voice is barely audible. His condition is a testament to the nature of Mr. Castro's regime. By the same token, the peaceful tactics he and other opponents have so courageously adhered to predict the quality of government that could one day succeed the dictatorship.***
Fidel's Nobel Prize winning Prison for Women*** It is a matter of fact that all communist regimes declare war against their own people. That is the reason for the summary executions, the political assassinations, the disappearances, the physical and psychological tortures, the kangaroo trials, and the massive prison systems. And this takes us to Castro's Cuba, which is not an exception among communist regimes.
In the area of El Watao, Havana, Castro built one of his infamous jails for women. This one is known as Black Mantle. Thousands of women have survived that jail while others have died.
María del Cármen Carro, an independent journalist inside Cuba working for the underground Center of Information About Democracy, on March 5, 2001, told the story of Maritza Lugo Fernández.
Maritza is the president of the November 30 Frank País Democratic Party, outlawed by the Castro regime. She has been a political prisoner held in Black Mantle for her belief in democracy and human rights for the Cuban people.
In her plea to all people of good will in the world, Maritza denounces the Cuban government and its main repressive arm, State Security - the equivalent of Hitler's S.S. - for the crimes committed against the women political prisoners in Black Mantle. She describes daily crimes, abuses and injustices against the people of Cuba in an effort to maintain a regime based on lies and deceptions.
She says that the massive detention of innocent people in Cuba for the single reason of disagreeing with Castro's regime must stop. Citizens are thrown, without trial, into inhumane dungeons where they are physically and psychologically tortured. The women political prisoners in Black Mantle as well as in other prisons throughout the island are forced into the same dungeons with dangerous common criminals. The fact that the Castro regime does not allow international inspections of their jails must stop. It is time to stop denying the nightmare that has been going on for 42 years.
Maritza explains that the political prisoners are treated with extreme cruelty, subjected to strict surveillance and searches. The dungeons are filthy and unfit for human habitation, with spoiled water filtering from above. The laundry sinks are clogged and they are not given soap. Most of the inmates have only a few pieces of clothing to wear. Meanwhile, the prison authorities conduct daily inspections to check the cleanliness and the prisoners are punished if they do not pass.
She says that while Castro's government - for propaganda purposes - sends doctors and medicines abroad, the medical attention that they receive in Black Mantle is extremely poor and rarely are medicines made available. Many women after completing their terms leave the prison very ill. Also the diet is very poor, consisting mostly of badly prepared meager rations of rice or macaroni and ground "meat" made of Soya.
Maritza makes the Castro regime responsible for the separation of millions of Cuban families living all over the world. Their separation is due to the political situation that forces them to flee in desperate and dangerous escapes.
In spite of the deceptive propaganda about culture and education for international consumption, which has been fooling so many foreigners throughout the years, she accuses the regime of keeping the Cuban people in complete ignorance about politics and democracy. In Castro's Cuba, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is officially considered a subversive document. Its possession by a citizen means confinement in jail.
Maritza's plea from her dungeon at Black Mantle prison is that the people who attend the next conference of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva, Switzerland, will consider the dire situation of the Cuban people. She firmly believes that if there is any justice left in the world, Castro's regime should be sanctioned for its constant violation of human rights. As Castro is committing these crimes, he is at the same time laughing at his victims, because the rest of the world looks the other way.
Maritza's is not an isolated case. About a million people have gone through Castro's gulag and those who survive tell stories that are much the same. But after 42 years the world still is not listening, especially the American people, just 90 miles away from the most brutal and repressive regime in the history of the Americas. It is a frustrating shame that because the U.S. media, which has failed to report the facts to the American people, must take much of the blame for Castro being and staying in power.
For people who are well informed of what is going on inside Cuba, these last eight years of the corrupt Clinton administration meant a setback for the suffering people of Cuba. It has been a wasted time. The policies of people-to-people contacts and cultural exchanges have failed. Castro, as usual, has controlled and used them for his propaganda benefit.
The drive to lift the travel restrictions on Americans to enjoy what apartheid Cuba offers only to tourists is immoral. The drive by unscrupulous businessmen to lift the U.S. embargo to take advantage of the exploited Cuban workers is morally reprehensible.
A way to end the Castro regime and stop 42 years of suffering in Cuba is to expose the regime for what it is. International condemnation, as was done with South Africa, will finally set the Cuban people free. Black Mantle and the rest of Castro's infamous gulag and his toll of deaths will then become part of the sorrowful history of communism.****
Shouldn't that read "Politicians who want the Cuban vote in South Florida are feigning deep concern..."?
If there were no Cubans living in south Florida we'd be hearing a whole lot less about the problems of Cubans in Cuba.
It's all about getting the votes my good man, all about the votes.
You're confusing conservatives with progressives. You see, conservatives do care, progressives just say they do - to get votes. Forty years of progressive "caring" have nothing to show for it but more needy, dependent voters.
Here's more information.
U.S., Europe work on Latin crises - First on Otto Reichs agenda Venezuela***Only a few weeks after they were trading insults over the war with Iraq, the Bush administration and key European countries -- including France -- are quietly talking about a greater coordination on Latin American crises such as those in Venezuela, Colombia and Cuba.
Last week, Secretary of State Colin Powell and Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio spent ''quite a long time'' discussing Latin America and possible areas of U.S.-European cooperation, Palacio told me in a telephone interview from Washington. And the Bush administration is sending its special ambassador to Latin America, Otto J. Reich, to Spain, Italy and France next week to discuss the region's hottest crises, as well as lingering financial troubles in Brazil and Argentina, White House officials and Palacio told me.
Among the people who have been asked to meet with Reich is French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, the diplomat whose public criticism of the Iraq war so exasperated the White House. Others will be Spanish Ibero-American Cooperation Minister Miguel Angel Cortes and Italian and Vatican officials.
The most pressing issue on Reich's agenda will be Venezuela, U.S. officials say. The administration fears that Venezuela's populist leftist President Hugo Chávez will renege on an internationally brokered agreement to convene a national referendum on the duration of his term, and that he will provoke a violent clash with the opposition in order to suspend constitutional guarantees and radicalize his ``Bolivarian revolution.'' ''He is trying to create an incident where he can call out the military and say that democracy has been threatened,'' a U.S. official says. ***
Dodd's request for memo hinders Latin envoy's job ***Dodd asked the State Department to explain the stated goal of the current senior U.S. diplomat in Havana, James Cason, in carrying out a ''more confrontational approach'' toward the Fidel Castro regime. He asked for an outline of instructions on any such policy that Cason might have received. Dodd also asked for the final lengthy ''end of tour'' cable sent by Huddleston before her departure from Havana about 10 months ago. She was Cason's predecessor.
While Dodd appears satisfied by lengthy responses delivered by the State Department to Capitol Hill June 4 on the Haiti matter and Cason's role, his office has insisted on seeing the Huddleston cable. Just what is in her cable is not publicly known. Some congressional staffers say Dodd believes the cable contains warnings that the Bush administration policy of intense engagement with political dissidents in Cuba would lead to a crackdown. ***