Skip to comments.Fidel Castro - Cuba
Posted on 04/14/2002 4:36:10 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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Before examining that, however, let's retire one particularly tired and self-contradictory "argument" against U.S. policy toward Cuba: The embargo is a convenient "excuse" for the Castro regime's failures.
At the minimal risk that a generalization like this creates, nobody who believes in (or at the very least understands) capitalism still holds that Cuba is an economic sinkhole because of U.S. foreign policy. As such, it is foolish to claim that the embargo is an "excuse" for the Castro regime's economic failure. This argument shifts blame to the Cuban people, for their implied stupidity. No émigré I've ever met believes their hardship resulted from U.S. policy. The embargo is an "excuse" only to the Left, for whose intellectual shortcomings I make no defense.
Everyone in Havana knows they receive one bar of soap per month because of decisions made by Castro, not Washington. To argue otherwise is to deny the Cuban people an "insight" most Americans take as common sense.
The most recent way to blame the United States for Castro's brutality is by criticizing the actions of the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana. The argument goes that were it not for U.S. diplomats-invariably portrayed by the media and the Left (quibble, quibble) in C.I.A.-like terms-supporting pro-democracy forces in Cuba, Castro wouldn't have to hand out life sentences like candy.
This is an insidious form of blaming the victim, along the lines of a domestic abuse counselor inquiring, "Why didn't you stop complaining after your husband hit you the first time?"
If only those pesky Cubans didn't want freedom so badly and the U.S. government wasn't so willing to help them, Castro wouldn't have to play the stern father.
What appears to be an attack on American actions turns out to be a much harsher attack on those who support American values from abroad. Imagine blaming the Berlin Wall jumpers for forcing the guards to pick them off like tin ducks in a carnival.
Moral relativism is a valued tradition for the Left, but some on the Right also equate a principled policy decision with the type of restrictions on freedom implemented by Castro.***
..The United States, Canada and the European Union are those threatening to take unspecific action against Havana if the dissidents are not released. Their sentences are under appeal. Sanchez said the dissidents were being held in "inhuman conditions" in small cells where they received water and food "that does not meet minimum sanitary requirements." Sanchez, whose group has monitored Cuban prison conditions for years, said writer and poet Raul Rivero and leading dissidents Hector Palacios and Oscar Elias Biscet were among those in solitary confinement.
The wives of some of the dissidents confirmed Sanchez's statement, a few saying their husbands were being punished for not cooperating with prison authorities. "He told me it was a very narrow cell. He has lost 30 pounds," Raul Rivero's wife, Blanca Reyes, said, after visiting her husband in central Ciego de Avila province. Sanchez said many of the dissidents were sent to prisons far from their homes, making family visits difficult. ***
To their credit, some European leftists finally criticized Castro's oppression. But others abroad and in the United States merely reaffirmed their long-standing, fawning allegiance to El Commandante. Likewise, the United Nations Human Rights Commission voted against condemning Castro's oppression and even rewarded him by re-electing Cuba to another three-year term on the Commission. Cuba triumphantly proclaimed its re-election as "undoubtedly a recognition of the Cuban Revolution's work in human rights in favor of all our people."
White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer expressed the administration's contempt for the decision, saying, "Cuba does not deserve a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the Human Rights Commission."
Many "intellectuals" and a number of Hollywood actors saw it differently. A group of more than 160, including singer Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover issued a declaration critical of the United States and supportive of the Castro regime entitled, "to the Conscience of the World."
"A single power is inflicting grave damage to the norms of understanding, debate and mediation among countries," said the declaration. "At this very moment, a strong campaign of destabilization against a Latin American nation has been unleashed. The harassment against Cuba could serve as a pretext for an invasion."
So it's America's fault for opposing this murderous regime's continued farcical participation on the Human Rights Commission because it is an egregious violator of the very rights the Commission is charged with overseeing? Just like we provoked bin Laden's 9-11 attacks? Well, at least these morality-deficient kooks are consistent. They harbor the same mentality that gave rise to:
Director Oliver Stone's obsequious documentary on Castro, "Comandante." Yes, HBO pulled it, but why did they undertake the project in the first place? Castro's brutality is nothing new. Stone said of Castro, "We should look to him as one of the Earth's wisest people, one of the people we should consult." I agree, should we ever decide to implement torture techniques against convicted terrorists.
Director Steven Spielberg gushing over his November powwow with Castro as "the eight most important hours of my life."
Actor Kevin Costner describing his meeting with Castro as "the experience of a lifetime" and Jack Nicholson calling him "a genius."
The hard Left's glamorization of the Soviet Union.
The hard Left's support of the Nicaraguan Communist Sandinistas over the Contra freedom fighters.
The hard Left's adulation of former Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to the point of crediting him -- though he desperately tried to hold on to Communism until the final hour -- instead of Ronald Reagan with the disintegration of the Soviet regime. What do you suppose could motivate these curious people to glorify such a man as Castro and such a universally failed, inhumane and corrupt system as Communism? Why do they repudiate the United States for denouncing such evil? It has to be either an irrepressible love for Communism that rejects all rationality, that defies all evidence, that still fantasizes longingly for the dictatorship of the proletariat, or, an unquenchable revulsion for the United States -- or both. It's your call.***
The other solution is an American intervention and temporary occupation, for perhaps six years. In the '90s, there was an embargo against Haiti. When that failed, the Clinton administration sent an aircraft carrier. We restored a "leader" (or another dictator, depending on whom you ask). There was a catch, though -- the Congressional Black Caucus was in favor of that great military action.
People who know me well know that, for 40 years, I've been present for the Cuban cause and will always be. To reach these conclusions has not been easy, but I challenge anybody to give me another solution, logical and feasible. I'm all ears. Just make sure you speak loud enough for the Cuban opposition to hear you -- behind all that concrete.***
. "If it were not for for Rush Limbaugh, the Washington Times,and Fox News -- those organizations, entities, have finally managed to break the dam," Collins said. "Ph.D. pieces could be written about this subject, dozens of them."***
For 44 years Castro has strangled Cuban liberty, and for 44 years his ''progressive'' acolytes have been giving him ovations. In ''Useful Idiots,'' her devastating new book on the left's ignoble Cold War history, Mona Charen rounds up some telling examples. There was Norman Mailer's early rhapsody to Castro, for example (''You were the first and greatest hero to appear in the world since the Second War''). And Jesse Jackson's 1984 cheerleading at the University of Havana (''Long live Cuba! Long live the United States! Long live Fidel Castro! Long live Martin Luther King! Long live Che Guevara! Long live Patrice Lumumba! Long live our cry of freedom!'').
Castro and communism turned Cuba into a place so bleak and suffocating that ordinary people throw themselves into the ocean to escape it. Yet a chorus of enthusiasts is ever ready to paint a glowing picture of Cuban life. During the Elian Gonzalez affair in 2000, Charen notes, some US journalists simply couldn't fathom why Elizabet Broton, Elian's mother, would want to leave such a paradise.
''What was she escaping?'' wondered ABC's Jim Avila. ''By all accounts this quiet, serious young woman who loved to dance the salsa was living the good life, as good as it gets for a citizen of Cuba.'' Her hunger for freedom baffled him; all he could see in it was a tragic and wrongheaded choice: ''An extended family destroyed by a mother's decision to start a new life in a new country, a decision that now leaves a little boy ... forever separated from her.''***
..........Had we not supported Israel, had we not backed the corrupt Saudi monarchy, had we not been buddies with Egypt, had we not been somehow complicit in Third World poverty, had we not developed blue jeans and T-shirts and rock music and premarital sex, the World Trade Center might still be standing and the Pentagon untouched. .......Below the surface of this reasoning seethes a perplexing animosity toward the United States -- not the people but the government and the economic system. Possibly it has its roots in the Great Depression, when capitalism seemed kaput and socialism so promising, and the government an adjunct of moneyed interests. At the same time, of course, governments on all levels -- federal, state and local -- were unabashedly racist.
Almost none of that still applies -- although money still talks. Yet the impulse to blame America first lingers, an atavistic reflex that jerks the knees of too many on the left and has cost the Democratic Party plenty over the years. Jeane Kirkpatrick, a former Democrat, put her finger on it 19 years ago. It's about time the Democrats listened to what she had to say.***
I'm not kidding. No other head of state has done so much in such a short time to wreck his country's economy, and to discourage his neighbors from engaging in the kind of finger-waving populism that has brought about massive capital flight and record poverty levels in Venezuela.
If it weren't for the disastrous performance of Chávez's ''peaceful revolution,'' Brazil's new leftist President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva would have probably launched the anti-free market policies he had championed for the past three decades, several foreign diplomats and politicians told me during a recent trip to Brazil. And Ecuador and Argentina probably would have followed suit.***
These engagers continue using the cliché that the ''40-year embargo'' has failed and argue that engagement can still help reform Castro's brutal dictatorship. But recent history clearly has demonstrated that engagement has been a policy failure.***
U.S. officials were unable to say whether Cuba is the only country now barred from such contacts with these companies. According to the officials, harassment of American diplomats in Havana is commonplace and extends well beyond the need for official intervention for routine service calls. As examples, officials said tires on diplomats' cars have been punctured on occasion. They also suspect that traffic "accidents" involving official U.S. vehicles were actually planned and staged by Cuban agents. ***
Venezuela has been a democracy since 1958, when a courageous leader, Rómulo Betancourt established representative government following a dictatorship. In the early 1960s Betancourt beat back Castro's efforts to overthrow Venezuela's democracy. Now Chávez wants to turn back the clock. He's cozied up to terrorist groups around the world, including those waging a murderous guerrilla war in neighboring Colombia.
Venezuelans of all classes and occupations have taken to the streets to protest Chávez's actions. He was thrown out briefly in a coup last year, but the coup collapsed when it became clear that the old corrupt elites were going to return to their money-grabbing ways and would take their time restoring democracy. Chávez's smile, however, was soon wiped off his face as spontaneous protests continued. There was a general strike a few months ago, the effects of which sharply reduced Venezuela's oil production. But Chávez has clung to power.
Whether Chávez's rule should continue is supposed to be the subject of a referendum in August, but this Castro wannabe has made it clear he won't leave office voluntarily. He will either try to postpone the election or use his armed thugs to rig the results.
The U.S. has reacted gingerly lest Chávez play the anti-U.S. card--always an option in Latin America--to shore up his sagging popularity. The U.S. should make clear that a clean August vote must take place--that Chávez must not be allowed to set up a virtual dictatorship, even if that means oil prices go up because we embargo Venezuela's oil exports. When Venezuelans see that we're serious about Chávez, perhaps their army will do what it should have done a long time ago--send Chávez to Havana on a permanent vacation--and then promptly return to the barracks. [End]
A letter ordering the seven U.N.-based diplomats to leave was delivered to the Cuban Mission in Midtown on Monday evening, the official said. It did not give them any time frame to depart. The U.S. official said the Cubans were being expelled "for engaging in activities deemed harmful to the United States outside their official capacity as members of the permanent mission of Cuba to the United Nations." "These activities constitute an abuse of their privileges of residence," the official said on condition of anonymity.
The latest U.N. directory lists 37 accredited Cuban diplomats, led by Ambassador Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla. The names of those ordered expelled were not released. The Bush administration and Cuban authorities have engaged in an escalating diplomatic tit-for-tat reminiscent of the Cold War days in U.S.-Cuban relations. Until Tuesday, this involved more mundane issues like fixing embassy plumbing.**
Seven diplomats based in the Cuban Interests Section, housed in the Swiss Embassy in Washington, were given 10 days to leave the country as of yesterday morning, Mr. Reeker said. "We've declared them persona non grata, requiring their departure from the United States," he said. Another seven diplomats were ordered to leave from the Cuban mission to the United Nations in New York for "activities deemed to be harmful to the United States outside of their official capacities as members of the permanent mission of Cuba to the United Nations," Mr. Reeker said.
The Cuban mission, headed by Ambassador Bruno Rodriguez Parrilla, refused to comment. Mr. Reeker declined to elaborate on the reasons for the expulsions or to provide the names of those expelled. He said a "range of officers" - but not the heads of the missions - were being forced out. He said the State Department called the Cubans from the Interests Section at 9 a.m. yesterday and delivered the notice verbally and with a diplomatic note. According to Mr. Reeker, the Cuban Interests Section in Washington is authorized to have 26 permanently accredited staff. The Cuban mission in New York had 37 diplomats. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana is permitted 51 positions.***
..Unlike American ballparks, the low, blue walls of Cuban ballparks were completely devoid of commercialization. However, along the foul poles, which were lit, there were painted signs exhorting fans to contribute to social revolution, accompanied by the signature of Fidel Castro
..Although Cuban beer is decent, it costs about $1. The average Cuban wage-earner makes $20 per month, so imagine spending 5 percent of your paycheck on a single beer.***
Unpromising as it may seem, the government store in the capital is the model to be replicated across Venezuela under a plan fathered by populist President Hugo Chávez and overseen by the military. The plan's goal: to feed Venezuela's growing number of poor and to counter shortages from the private sector. "Prices are cheaper than elsewhere, and for those of us with low incomes, any difference is important," says Viviana Trillo, a Caricuao housewife. "I thank President Chávez for this."
Paradoxically, the food security programme is being prioritised just as the Chávez government is blocking dollar sales to businesses, including soft commodity importers and food processors, curtailing supplies.
Currency trading was suspended in January during the strike at Petróleos de Venezuela, the state oil company that is the government's main source of export revenue. Four months later, international reserves have recovered and oil exports have resumed.
But Cadivi, the foreign exchange control agency, has yet to disburse any dollars and business leaders are convinced that Mr Chávez intends to bring the business sector - which fiercely opposes his government - to its knees.
"This a specific retaliation against all those seen as not being in favour of the regime," says Rafael Alfonzo, president of Cavidea, the food industry chamber.
The non-functional currency controls are not only affecting domestic companies, many of which are closing and laying off employees. Multinationals with subsidiaries in Venezuela, such as Cargill, the US agricultural conglomerate, say they will be forced to shut down operations within the next few weeks unless hard currency is made available.
"A lot of US companies thought that this would be a temporary situation and they got money from their home offices to maintain market share," says Antonio Herrera, vice-president of the Venezuelan-American Chamber of Commerce.
"But now they are being told: 'no longer', so they are exhausting inventories," Mr Herrera says. "This is an economic atrocity against the Venezuelan people."***
U.S. officials vigorously defended the mass expulsion, even as questions arose about its timing, the lack of public disclosure of evidence to support charges of espionage and whether genuine national security concerns led to the action -- and not political motivations.
Administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, laid out the chronology of what they said was ongoing concern about Cuban intelligence activities.***
And that is true. The (Sydney Morning) Herald tried for days to find a Cuban willing to interpret but, as soon as they discovered that the subject would be politics, none would agree. The first person asked physically backed away, saying: "I could get in trouble." The second initially agreed to take $US20 ($31) - a month's wages - for doing the work, but an hour before we were to meet, she rang and said: "I think it's not a good idea," before quickly hanging up.
So, for more than two hours, while Paya rocks gently in his chair, we try to talk using his basic English, my appalling Spanish, and a dictionary that his 14-year-old daughter has fetched from her room. I start with the most obvious question: "Why aren't you in jail?" This is something that Paya, too, has been wondering about. In recent weeks, just about every other Cuban dissident has been rounded up and sent to jail for 18 to 25 years.
Those jailed include librarians who want to give Cubans access to a range of different books, journalists who want to give Cubans access to newspapers not produced by Castro's Government and economists who want to crack open Cuba's socialist system by allowing Cubans to own and operate businesses. Paya expected to join them. During the interview, his eyes keep moving towards the door, as if he expects it to open and police to come flooding in.
"This is the question everybody - all my friends, my family - is asking," he says. "I don't know the answer, but I know another question. Why are other people in jail? What have they done? They have not used violence. They have not made the threat of violence. They have simply asked for change." ***
By the end of the War of Independence in 1898, Cuba had been in ruins. As a consquence of the war some 400,000 persons had died, about one-fifth of the population. The country had lost two-thirds of its wealth. Railroads, bridges and telegraph lines had been destroyed. Sanitary conditions were deplorable and the country was gripped by mortal endemic sicknesses like yellow fever.
"Once upon a time there was a Republic. It had its constitution, its laws, its civil rights, its President, a Congress, and law courts. Everyone could assemble, associate, speak and write with complete freedom. There existed a public opinion both respected and heeded."
Fidel Castro, "History Will Absolve Me" (1953)
* In 1953, almost 57 per cent of the population was urban. More than 1/2 of the population lived in cities of more than 25,000 inhabitants, 1/3 lived in 4 cities of more than 100,000 inhabitants. One-sixth of the population lived in Havana, third-largest capital of the world in relation to the total number of the nation's inhabitants after London and Vienna.
(Cuba: The Pursuit of Freedom, Hugh Thomas
The next day, as we waited for a cab, a man idling on a corner befriended us and asked my friend about her injuries. His concern seemed genuine. But when we got into a cab, he hopped in, too. He insisted on staying with us to make sure there would be no more trouble. It wouldn't cost much, he said. When we declined his offer, he shrugged and exited the cab. It was worth a try. Such constant asking must take a toll on the collective soul of Cubans. As neighbors of the United States, they are also reminded ad nauseam of Americans' voracious consumption of the luxuries they are denied by the embargo.***
As early as today, President George W. Bush will spell out what his administration plans to do. The wisest course would leave U.S. policy alone and concentrate diplomatic efforts on nations in Europe and Latin America that now trade with Cuba without regard to its dismal human-rights record.
Tightening the U.S. embargo by making family remittances or direct travel to Cuba illegal would only encourage people to go through third countries to reach family. Most Cuban-Americans want more family contacts, not less.
No, the best U.S. course is to focus on Mexico, Chile, Spain, France, Italy, Canada and all the other countries with businesses on the island. Most of their leaders, including Mexico's President Vicente Fox, already have given the dissidents credibility by meeting with them while visiting the island. European diplomats in Havana, particularly those from Spain, often invite dissidents to partake in their national celebrations. That has put Cuban officials on notice that creating a civil society that values diverse viewpoints is not a U.S.-manufactured plot but a universal goal, spelled out in the United Nations' own declaration of human rights.
If Bush focuses on what's best for the Cuban people, he would mount a diplomatic campaign for the European Union and the Organization of American States to put pressure on Cuba and free the dissidents.
Cuba's crackdown on dissent merits more than world condemnation, more than protests against the communist regime in Spain or France or, as are planned for this weekend, in New York and Washington. The Europeans and Latin Americans wield the big stick of trade if they care to use it. If not now, then when?***
Years later, Turner was still swooning for the strongman. "Everyone in Cuba likes him," he told The Washington Post in 2001. That's clearly the impression you would get from watching CNN. During the first five years of the Havana bureau's existence, ordinary Cubans interviewed by the network were six times more likely to express agreement with the regime than they were to disagree with it. That finding comes from a Media Research Center report examining all 212 prime-time news stories produced by the Havana bureau through the first part of 2002. Other data were just as striking: For instance, Castro and his spokesmen were six times more likely than regime critics to provide soundbites for the network, and only seven of the 212 stories focused on dissidents. (Jordan insists the MRC was "misleading and unfair" because its prime-time figures didn't include every report CNN has filed from Cuba.)
THIS comes as no surprise to people who know Lucia Newman, CNN's Havana bureau chief. "When we heard CNN got a Havana bureau, we knew right away who would be going there," says Paul Scoskie, a retired ABC News producer who first met Newman in the 1980s, when they both were covering Central America. (Newman started with CNN in 1986, as its bureau chief in Managua.) "We used to watch Lucia file her stories from Nicaragua, just amazed at how she reported some events." Adds Peter Collins, a former ABC and CNN foreign correspondent: "There were reporters you could always rely upon to follow the Sandinista line, and she was one of them."***
A Havana court convicted the five men of terrorism for planning to commandeer a plane with a stolen rifle and knives.
The five would-be hijackers, and three accomplices -- who received jail sentences ranging from 20 to 30 years -- were arrested as they prepared to take over a domestic airliner at the Isle of Youth airport on April 10, during a spate of hijackings by Cubans trying to reach the United States.
On April 11, Cuba executed three men who hijacked a Havana Bay commuter ferry with a handgun and knives in an attempt to sail 90 miles across to Florida. [End]
Will the United States keep selling any Cuba assets that arrive on our shores? It's another subplot in this 44-year-old power play. The U.S. government has been auctioning off hijacked planes that arrive in Miami to pay a Cuban-American woman who, by court decree, is entitled to big bucks from the Cuban government for having been jilted by her husband, who turned out to be a Cuban spy who infiltrated exile groups. Talk about government policy wrapped in the wrath of a woman scorned.
Will there be another rafter crisis as Cuba's bankrupt communist economy continues to struggle? Will Cuba's dissident movement be revived after this latest crackdown? Will Europe and Latin America make Cuba accountable for its human-rights violations?***
Now, as the Bush administration prepares its response to Fidel Castro's recent crackdown on dissidents and emigrants, it's confronted by a new dilemma: Cuban-Americans, a key political constituency, are split between the traditional hard-liners and a new generation of moderates like Mas Santos, who has taken over the chairmanship of the CANF. The old guard is lobbying to have the US cut off the funds - more than a billion dollars annually - that Cuban-Americans send to their families on the Caribbean island, and to ban all travel there. The moderates, made up of younger Cuban-Americans and newer migrants from the island, object to both those aims, and would prefer the administration to champion human rights and free speech - and indict Castro as a war criminal.***
`SATISFIED' Another exile, Isabel Roque, broke into tears as she approached a microphone. ''We leave here satisfied,'' said Roque, sister of dissident economist Martha Beatriz Roque, who was given a 20-year jail term in a sweeping crackdown last month. ``He [President Bush] will not abandon us. Rest assured that this president is on our side.'' White House aides said the scheduled half-hour meeting stretched to a full hour. ***
It all happened as a result of the recent executions of three young men, shot dead ''to prevent an American invasion'' -- as if Castro had become an Aztec priest who conjures fate by means of human sacrifices.
Suddenly, the mutiny was directed at García Márquez, the prior of Latin American literature. ''Where is García Márquez's signature, in the face of this limitless cruelty?'' everyone asked. The author first said that he repudiated the death penalty but then made clear his inalterable affection for the dictator.
Murderers also have friends, and García Márquez wasn't willing, like José Saramago, to break with the old tyrant just because of a handful of new victims and some fresh blood on the execution wall.
..How can someone justify the huge moral concession of traveling to Havana to support or show affection for the oldest of the Latin American executioners? Very simple: by rescuing one or two captives and, if possible, returning home with them in a suitcase and exhibiting them as a great diplomatic success.
Of the 75 dissidents convicted in hasty trials in April, only independent economist Marta Beatriz Roque is a woman. Every week the wives gather at the church of the patron saint of desperate causes. "We have come to remember our husbands," said Miriam Leiva, wearing a T-shirt imprinted with a photo of her jailed spouse, independent economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe. "This is an act of solidarity and support for their cause."***
Today however, I understand why my dad and so many other good men have been incarcerated. I have cried so much that I felt my heart was breaking into one thousand pieces, I think that I will never again be able to cry, because right now I feel a great emptiness inside of me. Perhaps you are asking yourself why I am directing myself at you.
I will tell you that I do so for many reasons; one of them being the fact that you are a woman, and this allows me to speak to you as if I am speaking to a mother, mothers always understand better the suffering of their children. Another reason is that you are a journalist and a professional, dedicated to the cause of Liberty for our country in your radio program "Monday Communiqués With Cuba", with Mr. Agustin Tamargo, as well as in your other program; but the main reason why I write to you is than on more than one occasion, during your broadcasts, I have heard your voice break and I realize that you feel the anguish of our people, as if instead of living in a free country, you lived here, with us, and suffered with your own body and spirit our pain. That is a miraculous thing, and even difficult to comprehended.***
Reid introduced a Senate Resolution that calls upon the State Department and the Organization of American States to convene a special tribunal that will try Fidel Castro, and other political and military leaders of Cuba who have committed crimes against humanity.
"We cannot allow Castro, Hussein, other dying despots or their associates to hide behind a phony claim of immunity," Reid said in a speech on the Senate floor today. "We must ensure that all of these despicable figures are held accountable for their crimes against humanity. They have willingly chosen to torture and kill their people, and it is time to hold them accountable for that decision. The Iraqi people, the Cuban people and the people of the free world demand and deserve justice."
Since 1959, more than 100,000 Cubans have been persecuted by Castro's regime. Over 18,000 of whom were killed or have disappeared. Just this past March, Castro launched a massive crackdown on leaders of independent labor unions, opposition parties, and the pro-democracy movement that led to the arrest of 80 dissidents. Castro denied these detainees due process and subjected them to secretive trials, after which 50 of them received prison sentences of up to 28 years.
In April, three Cubans hijacked a ferry in an attempt to flee Castro's repressive regime. The Cuban government summarily tried these men behind closed doors and then executed them by firing squad. Journalists have endured especially severe punishment from Castro. In 2002, his government killed 25 journalists and threatened, harassed or detained 1,420 more.
"Fidel Castro has led a tyrannical regime in Cuba that systematically violates basic human rights, including freedoms of expression, association, assembly and movement, and he shows no sign of ending his campaign of terror," Reid said. "101 years ago today, a proud Cuban people declared their independence. Cuban Independence Day should be a celebration of freedom for the Cuban people. Instead, their island has been hijacked by a cruel dictator whose false promises of prosperity have given way to cowardly acts of intimidation. The sad truth is that the Cuban people still are not free."
Since the end of World War II, the United States and the other free nations of the world have agreed that individuals who commit crimes against humanity must be held responsible for their actions. From Nuremberg to Bosnia, to Rwanda and now in Iraq, the international community, under U.S. leadership, has brought tyrants to justice. Reid's legislation ensures preparations would be made to do the same to Fidel Castro. [End]
But Venezuela Production and Trade Minister Ramon Rosales, speaking in Bogota at a meeting with Colombian exporters, added that it will be another two weeks before further details of the payment process will be avaialable.
Up to 800 Colombian exporters and other business leaders who deal with Venezuela are awaiting payments from Venezuela. The exporters are becoming impatient due to four-month-old currency restrictions in Venezuela that have tightened dollar flows, saddling importers there with dollar-debts they are unable to pay.
Also speaking at the meeting was Juan Emilio Posada, president of Colombia's largest airline, Alianza Summa. He said the carrier is owed $3.8 million in Venezuela and that this figure increases $1 million each month.
"What's the purpose of selling in a country that can't pay," Posada told reporters on the sidelines of the meeting. "The moment will soon arrive in which this type of business is unsustainable."
Summa flies to Caracas from Bogota three times a day.
Venezuela's Rosales responded, saying a special plan will be set up so airlines such as Alianza Summa can be paid.
During the first two months of the year, Colombian exports to Venezuela totaled $69 million, down from $233 million in the first two months of 2002. [End]
Radio and TV Martí, which were created in the 1980s to beam news and information to Cuba critical of the socialist government of Fidel Castro, are seen here as just one more example of Washington's continued aggression towards the island. Havana also rejects the celebration of May 20 as Cuban Independence Day, which is observed by Cuban exiles in the United States. On May 20, 1902 the Republic of Cuba was declared after three years of U.S. military intervention. Prior to its withdrawal, the United States inserted the Platt Amendment into the Cuban constitution, authorizing Washington to intervene in the country whenever it deemed necessary.
The White House special envoy for Latin America, Otto Reich, told the press that the transmission of a four-hour program Tuesday formed part of an "initial test phase which will be followed by others." With this gesture aimed at appeasing the most radical faction of the anti-Castro Cuban exile community, Bush limited his May 20 speech to expressing his "hope...for the Cuban people to soon enjoy the same freedoms and rights that we do." ***
As she talks into the early evening, the sunlight dims and the room goes dark. She and two daughters rely on the light from the kitchen since the bulb that hangs over the living room is burnt out and there is no money to buy another. Today Garcia is pulling her life together after her son's execution. She spends most of her days in her small apartment, nursing her chronic migraines on the cot she and her family pulled from a trash bin -- the only furniture in the room save three chairs.
She says she worries about being watched by Cuba's security, and that many of her neighbors have stopped talking to her. Now she plans to apply for an exit visa to the leave the island, saying the "rage in my heart" over her son's execution is so great she can barely breathe some days. Last week, she contacted one of Cuba's leading opposition activists, Elizardo Sanchez, and Cuba's Cardinal Jaime Ortega for help to begin the process.***
Address moved outdoors Thousands of Argentines crowd Buenos Aires boulevard to hear Cuba's Fidel Castro speak***BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) - To the cheers of thousands of screaming Argentines, Cuban leader Fidel Castro criticized U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and Latin America in a speech Monday. Castro, who attended Sunday's inauguration of President Nestor Kirchner, was on his first trip to this economically troubled South American country since 1995. Dressed in a dark blue suit and tie, Castro drew shouts of "Ole! Ole! Ole!" and "Fidel! Fidel!" as he spoke for more than two and a half hours outdoors on a crisp winter night.
Castro began by paying homage to Argentina-born revolutionary Ernesto "Che" Guevara, who served as one of his top advisers during the 1959 revolution. "He was a wonderful human being, extremely intelligent and cultured, and who had an enormous sense of solidarity," he said. Castro then compared his country's achievements in health care and education to levels attained by the United States in the same field. But his criticism of the U.S-led war in Iraq drew the loudest applause. "We send our doctors, not bombs, to the farthest corners of the world to help save lives, not kill them," he said to a roar of cheers. ***
"The people of Buenos Aires are sending a message to those in the world who want to ride roughshod over our cities and our countries in Latin America," he added in a thinly veiled reference to the United States. The speech was organized by a student group and originally planned to be held in an auditorium at the University of Buenos Aires Law School, but was moved outdoors after thousands swarmed the building to hear Castro speak.***
And Saddam and Castro imprison, torture and execute at home. Well, Saddam used to.
Castro's injustice system convicted them of violating Cuba's independence, which is the very thing they yearn for-"independence from oppression," as Cuban founding father José Martí wrote. Perversion of language is to totalitarianism what theft is to kleptomania.
These heroes' real crime was heresy; they defied Castro's archaic absolutism and called for openness and progress. They called for a Cuba where people aren't imprisoned for speaking their minds and are citizens instead of slaves.
Cuba's most famous heretic is currently Oswaldo Payá. He was born in 1952 and endured forced labor camps from 1969 to 1972 for opposing the Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. (Castro endorsed the invasion.)
Payá leads the Christian Liberation Movement and the Varela Project, the latter a petition drive that seeks a referendum on human rights, electoral reform, and other issues. The Project bases the referendum on a provision of Cuba's 1976 "constitution," a document that among other things prohibits private media and activities "against the existence and ends of the socialist State."
Payá's international prominence shielded him from April's autos-da-fé, but lesser known supporters of the Project suffer greatly. College students Roger Rubio Lima, Harold Cepero Escalante, and Joan Columbié Rodríguez were expelled last fall for signing the Project; Project activists Jesús Mustafá Felipe and Robert Montero were sentenced to 18 months in February; and Project organizer Hector Palacios was sentenced to 25 years in April.
These are six names, and there are so many more.
While Cuban human rights organizations share a common purpose in emancipating Cuba from totalitarianism, they differ on methods. Dr. Biscet, for example, leads the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights and doesn't support the Varela Project.
"When I was presented with the Project in 1997, I told them that everything that unites the people is good, but that I personally dissented, because I would never honor that  constitution," he said last November. "I will only honor a constitution when a democratic constitution is established that respects the rights of the people of my country." (There's also the contradiction of a referendum on human rights, rights by definition not being subject to a referendum.)
Payá considers economic sanctions diversionary from Cuba's internal crisis, describing them as "not a factor in change in Cuba." Dr. Biscet supports sanctions, however, and made the following analogy in November:
My stand is pragmatic: if you have an individual that abuses his family at home, the right thing to do is to remove the individual from the home, not to give him more money to continue abusing. If the international community had acted with Cuba in the same form that it did with [the apartheid regime] of South Africa, our country would have been free a long time ago.
This tactical diversity is appropriate. Unlike a despot's lackeys, free thinkers aren't expected to be identical. ***
Just a few weeks ago, Castro locked up 75 dissidents and executed three Afro-Cubans accused of hijacking. Yet, even after that crackdown, some lawmakers still call for an end to sanctions against his regime. They claim American goods and tourists will hasten a democratic transition.
That would be a first. Commerce and tourism with the Soviet Union, for example, didn't bring down the Berlin Wall or produce perestroika. Trade with Moscow did change perceptions about Americans in a part of the world unfamiliar with us. But the Soviet dictatorship collapsed when its economy ran out of gas.
Similarly, lifting the current embargo on Cuba would have no effect on Castro. Like other tyrants in history, he lives in a dream world that he forces others to inhabit and sustain. He will insulate it from all threats and do whatever it takes to keep it alive.
Those threats include a vocal dissident movement and a populace that seems more cynical about the old dictator every day. Holding them in check requires money to keep his repressive state running. Tourism and credit from a market the size of the United States could help supply the financing his government needs.
Historically, Castro has liberalized only when forced to do so. He didn't begin tolerating self-employment, for example, until Soviet subsidies to the island dried up in 1991. And he released dozens of political prisoners in 1998 only after Pope John Paul II made a plea before an international audience.
In contrast, commerce, joint ventures and aid money from Canada and other donors have produced no change in behavior. It's easy to see why. Entrepreneurs hoping to sell Cuba something don't want to question Castro's human rights record or the regime's business practices. Castro holds all the cards. Those who won't play his game lose their place at the table.
Canadian and European tourists haven't helped democracy flourish on the island. But they have fueled the growth of Cuba's joint-venture resort industry that supplies the state with hard currency. Like others before them, American visitors would be unlikely to go out of their way to criticize a state where there is no freedom of speech, nor to risk a jail term helping dissidents.
The only valid argument in favor of lifting restrictions is whether the U.S. government is justified in so limiting the freedom of American citizens to travel to another nation. There is a legal basis for establishing such limits in the interest of national security, but the government must continually make a case for keeping them. Right now, Cuba maintains a huge electronic espionage complex directed at U.S. shores, conducts research into biological warfare and sponsors international terrorist groups. So it would seem that current policy wins the national interest debate.***
''The United States wants to impose a universal, Nazi-fascist dictatorship,'' Castro told the admiring crowd. Perhaps the crowd didn't realize what he was projecting: Castro himself has imposed such a totalitarian dictatorship on the Cuban people.
Ironically, Argentines who still laud Castro are, in effect, supporting the kind of military dictatorship that terrorized Argentina with censorship, disappearances, torture and summary executions. Except that Argentina's dirty war lasted seven years while Cuba's has gone on 44 years and counting.***
When I asked Bielsa these questions, he replied that the ABC interview had taken place more than a week ago.''I was not foreign minister last week,'' Bielsa told me. ``The [ABC] question specifically referred to the executions, and I felt I had neither the position nor the moral authority to make a judgment.''
And what would you say if I asked you in a broader sense whether Cuba respects human rights?
The foreign minister responded that he will make a judgment on that once he examines the previous government's reasons for changing Argentina's vote at the United Nations from a condemnation of Cuba's human rights abuses to an abstention.''I consider the United States to be a friendly country,'' Bielsa added. ``Argentina has not decided to have an automatic alignment with Cuba and Venezuela to systematically confront the United States in international organizations.''***
Cardinal Jaime Ortega also called for reconciliation among Cuban believers during a Thursday night conference attended by hundreds of people. In the audience was U.S. Interests Section Chief James Cason, a frequent target of criticism by the government. Foreign diplomats, opposition members and well-known cultural figures tied to Fidel Castro's government, also attended the conference.
''The church's mission is not to be on the side of the opposition,'' said Ortega, the Archbishop of Havana and the island's only Roman Catholic cardinal. ``In the same way, you cannot ask the church to support the government.''
Ortega's comments came a week after a Czech bishop and former anti-communist dissident criticized the church in Cuba for not supporting the opposition movement here. Ortega said his Czech colleague did not visit him during a recent stay here.
''The church leadership is very reserved toward the opposition movement,'' Bishop Vaclav Maly told reporters on May 21, hours after he returned from a 10-day visit to Cuba. ''From my point of view, it's a big mistake,'' Maly said.
Maly noted that while a church should not engage in politics, ``in a dictatorship, it's always good when people of goodwill unite.''
Maly, chairman of a Czech rights group run by the Roman Catholic Church, traveled to Cuba after 75 government opponents were sentenced to long prison terms and three men were executed after quick trials for trying to hijack a ferry.
At the time, Cuba's Roman Catholic bishops issued a statement questioning both the executions and the political crackdown.
''Violence is not eliminated with more violence,'' the Cuban bishops said, adding that they were also concerned about ``long prison sentences imposed on political opponents.''
Ortega said that the mother of one of the executed men had later met with him. The prelate said he was impressed by her lack of rancor and called on believers to replace their hatred with a similar spirit of reconciliation.
Maly, 52, a signatory of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto co-authored by former President Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic, was jailed numerous times by the former communist regime. [End]
The wives say another concern is that their husbands have been assigned to prisons hundreds of miles from home. Few people own cars in Cuba, and public transportation is poor. Lydia Lima Valdez, a 67-year-old physician, said it took three days to travel back and forth between Havana and eastern province of Holguin, where her husband is serving an 18-year sentence. The trip included two 12-hour bus rides. "The distance is so far for me," said Lima Valdez. "It's really difficult. I'm too old."
Visits for some inmates also have been limited to one every three months, the wives say. This makes it difficult for family members to deliver food, clothing, soap, sheets and other things their husbands need to make it in Cuba's sparse penitentiary system. With other avenues of protest blocked, several wives met with a delegation from Iowa and recently attended a packed diplomatic reception at the home of the Norwegian ambassador to Cuba.
Elsa Morejon, the wife of imprisoned dissident Oscar Elias Biscet, said she attended the Norwegian reception because "my husband is in a punishment cell, and I have to get him out of there." "I talked to diplomats from Spain, Greece, Canada, Chile and Britain," she explained. "If the people of the world don't know about my husband, I can't do anything for him." Morejon said her husband is in solitary confinement after he refused to wear a prison uniform. Biscet, who is clothed only in underwear, has been denied visits, she said.***
Sentenced to 20 years for treason, Mr. Chepe is being held in eastern Cuba, far from his family and a hospital able to treat his condition, which relatives say is deteriorating. A State Department spokesman, Philip T. Reeker, said the Cuban government "appears to be going out of its way" to treat the dissidents inhumanely.
"The United States demands that the Cuban government provide Mr. Chepe with adequate health care and transfer him to a hospital where he can receive the level of care commensurate with his illness," Mr. Reeker said. [End]
Voters were asked on the ballot if they agreed with legitimizing "The Free Nation of Cuba", creating a "National Transition Commission", and authorizing it to continue work towards legitimizing that "Free Nation of Cuba". Three-thousand, four-hundred and fifty-six persons supported the creation of the "Nation", 34 persons did not, and the remainder either did not vote or submitted a blank ballot. Regarding the Commission, 3,419 persons voted in favor and 44 against.
In addition to the referendum, a poll was conducted to ask voters if they believed the National Transition Committee should coordinate efforts with dissident groups inside Cuba such as All United and the Assembly for the Development of Civil Society (3,429 in favor, 15 against) and [if they supported] the Varela Project (3,234 in favor and 161 against). [The Varela Project is an effort by dissidents inside Cuba to provide for a larger participation of the Cuban people in the political and economic life of the country. Supporters of the Project call for legal recognition of the freedoms of speech, press, and assembly; the right of Cubans to own businesses; electoral reform; and amnesty for political prisoners.]
Martín explained that the initiative is based on the premise that 12 million people living in Cuba cannot speak freely against the dictatorial regime, for which the 2 million Cubans in exile aspire to form that Free Nation of Cuba.
[The exiles] attempt to replace the Cuban government with this [Free Nation] in international organizations in the future and thus end the Castro regime. "Those 12 million Cubans are not allowed to speak [freely] or vote, [so] it's like they don't exist because they are like slaves," [Martín] commented.***
...........Another ALA board member, Ann Sparanese, is a member of the Venceremos Brigade, a radical Marxist group that dates to the 1960s. "They are not librarians," she said of the imprisoned Cubans in a brief telephone interview yesterday.***