Skip to comments.Fidel Castro - Cuba
Posted on 04/14/2002 4:36:10 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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The treatment of Martha Beatriz Roque, 57, the only woman among 75 dissidents convicted in a March crackdown, exemplifies what is happening. She was taken from her cell to a military hospital on July 24 suffering from high blood pressure and chest pains. Her sentence is 20 years for ''conspiring'' with a foreign power. Her crime? Speaking the truth about Cuba's moribund economy and totalitarian government.
Held at the notorious Manto Negro prison, Ms. Roque -- coauthor of the dissident manifesto, The Homeland Belongs to Us All -- has been kept in solitary confinement with no access to sunlight, according to Havana independent journalist Angel Polanco. She refused to drink filthy prison water and subsisted on water provided by her niece in monthly visits. Rats and cockroaches infested her cell, and her body was covered by an allergic rash.
Such prison conditions aren't unusual. Contaminated water and filthy cells are standard issue. Prisoners are moved hundreds of miles from home, turning family visits into odysseys. Visits then are permitted at the whim of prison authorities.
o Dr. Oscar Eliás Biscet hasn't been allowed to see his wife, Elsa Morejón, since April. He's jailed in a ''punishment'' cell for refusing to wear prison garb and is denied care packages and visits. His mosquito bites have become infected due to the intense heat, and he suffers a chronic infection in his mouth from lack of treatment.
o Independent journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 62, who has severe liver disease, has deteriorated dramatically since being imprisoned and reportedly is close to death.
o Little is known of the condition of human-rights activist Leonardo Miguel Bruzón, who suffers numerous ailments due to prison treatment and repeated hunger strikes. After 17 months in detention, he has yet to be charged with a crime.
Amnesty International rightly reaffirmed last weekthat the 75 dissidents are prisoners of conscience. It also noted that, ``Neither the U.S. embargo nor any other aspect of U.S. foreign or economic policy can be used to justify grave violations of fundamental rights by the Cuban authorities.''
International condemnation can make a difference. Countries that support human rights -- especially Caribbean and Latin American countries -- must call for the regime to end this cruel and inhumane treatment of people who never would be imprisoned in a free country. [End]
De Miranda, 57, was honored in Miami with the Pedro Luis Boitel Award, named for a political prisoner who died in Cuba in 1972. De Miranda is among about 75 dissidents and others who were arrested and jailed in March.
''Mr. de Miranda is a person who has devoted his life to the establishment of free thought in Cuba, who tries to do his best for liberation of thought among young Cubans, and ... to establish a society independent of the government,'' said Philip Dimitrov, former prime minister of Bulgaria, who announced the award Tuesday morning. ''Such people are usually much hated by communist regimes because civil society is one of the greatest menaces to them,'' Dimitrov said.
Castro's Cuba, one of the noblest causes?***
Many of the dissidents are serving terms of up to 28 years. The women stopped the Fifth Avenue marches in May after state authorities threatened to throw them all in prison, they said. That capitulation reduced, but didn't stop, the alleged threats. ''The authorities came seven or eight times to visit me and told me to stop attending the church or they'd make me disappear,'' said Dolia Leal, 58. Her husband, Nelson Aguiar Ramirez, who heads the illegal Cuban Orthodox Party, was imprisoned in March.
In addition, Leal said, when she tried to visit her husband last month to give him medicine and vitamins, prison officials ''told me they wouldn't give them to him as long as I went to the Church of St. Rita.'' Yolanda Huerga -- whose husband, writer and journalist Manuel Vazquez, also was arrested in March -- said security agents told her if she didn't stop attending the Mass they'd take away her 9-year-old son, Gabriel, who is recovering from spinal surgery, and make him a ward of the state. ''They also visited Gabriel's school to ask if he was doing anything bad'' and stood nearby during her son's surgery in July, ''just so we'd always know they're watching us,'' Huerga said.
Asked about the alleged threats, Luis Fernandez, a Cuban foreign ministry liaison to US media, said only that ''no one here is personally persecuted for their ideas.'' ''When their relatives are taken away, sometimes people react emotionally,'' he continued. Fearing reprisals, a few dissidents' relatives have stopped attending Mass as well as the marches. But most still go to church.***
Now European diplomats find themselves in the position of being the bad guys in Castro's books, while Cuban purchases of food and agricultural products from the United States have taken off since the easing of the American embargo two years ago.
Cuba has bought $480 million in U.S. farm products, but it has to pay cash due to a credit ban in the U.S. embargo. European businessmen that are owed millions of dollars for shipments to Cuba are frustrated to see U.S. firms get payed up front.
"The Americans are benefiting because the Cubans are using credit lines from French banks to pay for food imports and putting on hold debt payments to European exporters," said a European diplomat.
Facing European criticism for locking up dissidents, Cuba in May withdrew a request to joining an EU aid and preferential trade pact for former colonies, the Cotonou Agreement, which could have provided the island with up to $100 million (euros) a year in aid.
Diplomats believe Castro concluded he had lost Europe as an ally with the grim prospect of 10 former Soviet bloc nations joining the EU next year with an anti-communist agenda.
Former Czech president Vaclav Havel has nominated leading Cuban dissident Oswaldo Paya for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
In a July 26 speech, marking the fist salvos of his guerrilla uprising 50 years ago, Castro charged they would serve as "Trojan horses" for the United States inside the European Union.
"They are full of hatred for Cuba," Castro said. ***
A few weeks later, the Cuban authorities welcomed legal proceedings instigated in France against our NGO. We had used the famous photo of Che Guevara with beret and ruffled hair in a poster denouncing Cuba as "the world's biggest prison for journalists." It was not to the liking of the daughter of Alberto Diaz Gutierrez ("Korda"), the photographer who took the picture. The poster was banned and RSF was ordered to pay damages.
The latest chapter in this saga is that RSF has just been suspended from the U.N. for a year at Cuba's initiative. The governments that voted for this ban -- a fine band of human-rights predators themselves -- even refused to let our activists defend themselves. And what was our crime? To have ridiculed the human rights commission's current chairwoman, Najat Al-Hajjaji, the representative of Libya, a country not known for scrupulously respecting human rights.
But our plight is very small indeed compared to what Cubans face every day. The latest crackdown on political dissidents and independent journalists and the execution on April 11 of three young men who had tried to hijack a ferry in order to reach the coast of Florida set off a wave of condemnation and even got the European Union to rethink its cooperation with Cuba. It was high time. It remains for those who regularly visit the Cuban beach resort of Varadero to ask what is going on out of view in the backyard of Latin America's last dictatorship.***
Seventy-five dissidents were rounded up and sentenced to long prison terms for alleged ties to the U.S. diplomatic mission in Cuba. To the extent that independent libraries and rights groups continue to exist, Noriega said they need U.S. and other international support "so that they have a little more reach, so they can get the word out about what's happening on the island."
Wayne Smith, a former U.S. diplomat who has long favored a U.S. accommodation with Cuba, said Noriega's ideas could undermine the dissidents. "The more the United States talks about backing the internal dissidents, the more it undercuts their position by making them appear to be agents of the U.S," Smith said.
The U.S. delegation dispatched to Miami consists of Otto Reich, White House special envoy for Latin America; Dan Fisk, a top State Department Cuba specialist; and Adolfo Franco, an assistant administrator at the Agency for International Development.***
.. Dutrow also would push national socialist issues as mayor, including bringing home all troops stationed abroad and ending American "occupation" of Iraq, creating jobs for everybody, allowing illegal immigrants to obtain drivers licenses, defending women's access to abortion and re-establishing U.S. relations with Cuba.***
"Look at the impact on the Cuban (American) community: he's got Cuban groups fighting against each other, he's got the Cuban community criticizing the administration," said Otto Reich, President George W. Bush's chief advisor on Latin America.
"This was a million-dollar operation; you cannot buy that kind of discord," Reich told AFP.
The administration has come under criticism from prominent Cuban-American leaders for sending back to Cuba a dozen people intercepted at sea after allegedly hijacking a Cuban government boat in a bid to flee the communist-run island last month.
"I feel some of the incidents recently do not pass the smell test of being genuine," Reich told AFP, largely in reference to the apparent hijacking. "I think that the Cuban (American) community is the target of Castro."***
''Do not be fooled. This is a very serious step he has taken. A risky decision made in the middle of much tension in Havana,'' the statement said. She said her husband did not discuss his decision with anyone -- including the Cuban government. She said her husband has always sought ''legal opposition space'' on the island.
Gutiérrez-Menoyo's daughter, Patricia, said in a phone interview from Puerto Rico that she too was shocked by her father's decision. She feared he may now face prison in Cuba again. ''This time he goes with more powerful weapons than back then,'' she said. ``Moral values, ethics, and a desire for peace and reconciliation. He knew how to make war when it was time. Now years later, with greater maturity, he firmly believes that peaceful means are required.''
But some Miami exiles have long considered Gutiérrez-Menoyo to be soft on Castro. His organization is seen as far more left of center than the majority of exile groups, most of which oppose any dialogue or contact with Castro's government. After breaking rank with Castro, Gutiérrez-Menoyo lived in Miami, where he became the military leader of Alpha 66. In late 1964, he landed in Cuba with three men in hopes of launching an armed uprising. But he was captured and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to 30 years. In 1986, after 22 years, the Cuban government released him, honoring a request from Spain's prime minister at the time, Felipe González.***
''He is a brave man,'' Sanchez said, but ``during the last few years, he tried to discredit the internal opposition and has not shown expected solidarity on crucial issues like political prisoners.''
Some exiles in Miami also accused Gutiérrez-Menoyo of being soft on Fidel Castro, and some even labeled him a ''communist.'' Ernesto Díaz, who co-founded Alpha 66 with Gutiérrez-Menoyo and Veciana in 1961, said he could not fathom dialogue with Castro and claimed Menoyo was merely ``surrendering his integrity.''
But Bernardo Benes, a former banker who has supported dialogue with the Cuban government for decades, said Gutiérrez-Menoyo has taken the rare step of shifting from rhetoric to action. He said the anti-Castro movement had been languishing for years. ''It was frozen. Nothing was happening,'' Benes said. ``This can be a breakthrough.''***
Always with that finger in the air. What a fossel. What a crime against humanity.
I'm reading 'The Bridge At Andau' by James Michener.
It's about the 1956 Hungarian revolt against the commie/brutes and what a fantastic story it is.
I would sure love to see the Cubans rise up like that.
Last week they published an open letter to President Bush describing their "profound disappointment with current Cuba policy."
The ad carried a cartoon hinting that unless something changed, Bush could no longer count on their votes come the next election. ***
After breaking rank with Castro, Gutiérrez-Menoyo lived in Miami, where he became the military leader of the anti-Castro group Alpha 66. In late 1964, he landed in Cuba with three men in hopes of launching an armed uprising. But he was captured and sentenced to death. The sentence was later commuted to 30 years. In 1986, after 22 years, the Cuban government released him, honoring a request from Spain's prime minister at the time, Felipe González. Gutiérrez-Menoyo lived in Spain for a while but eventually resettled in Miami.
The Castro government in recent years has had a respectful but cautious relationship with Gutiérrez-Menoyo, who has traveled here occasionally to visit family. He met with Castro himself in 1995.
It still remained unclear whether officials would allow him to remain permanently in Cuba and operate his Cambio Cubano, what he says is an ''independent'' opposition movement.***
This refugee policy is the result of an agreement between President Clinton and Castro. It caused Elián Gonzáles, who'd been rescued at sea, to be seized from a Miami home and flown back to Cuba. Under it, 20,000 Cubans are allowed to emigrate annually, with Castro deciding who goes and who doesn't. Castro uses the quota as a tool for suppressing dissent. If a Cuban is docile, he may have a chance to leave. But if he presses for freedom in his homeland, his chances are nil. To get out, a Cuban must pipe down. Castro deals with dissidents in other brutal ways. He cracked down on dozens last spring and sentenced them to long jail terms. Meanwhile, their family members lose jobs, their kids are expelled from school, and they lose their homes.
Why is the Bush administration clinging to a Clinton policy that's a matter of presidential discretion, not federal law? Five words: fear of another Mariel boatlift. In 1980, Castro cleaned out his jails and insane asylums and sent a flotilla of some 125,000 refugees to Florida. The sudden influx created some havoc in Miami and even in Arkansas, where violence and rioting by Cubans held at Fort Chafee contributed to Bill Clinton's defeat for reelection as governor. If you've seen the movie "Scarface," which starred Al Pacino as a refugee who becomes a crazed cocaine dealer, you'll understand the trouble that Castro caused in the United States. Averting a repeat of Mariel is the governing principle of Bush's refugee policy.***
"You have to have passions and dreams," he said recently, but "life has inexorable laws." He promised to stay on as president "until nature itself decides, not a minute less and not a second longer." His frenetic work schedule still includes statistics-laden addresses that go on for hours; meetings with visiting heads of state, politicians and others from the early hours of the morning to the wee hours of the following day; and personal supervision of the implementation of government programs in education and heath care.
But this ideal society concept does not mesh with a complicated and crumbling reality. After 40 years of communism, more than 11 million Cubans do not have their basic needs met. Housing shortages hit crisis levels years ago. Insufficient subsidized food supplies, combined with low salaries that make purchasing nonsubsidized food prohibitive for most, are dawn-to-dusk frustrations for millions. Limits on personal freedoms also take their toll, and these are just the beginning of problems facing Cuba's revolution. The economy is limping, as a tough US economic embargo, combined with a rigid communist bureaucracy here, less tourism and sliding international prices for top export sectors sugar and nickel, have slammed the brakes on growth.
Castro's regime "tends to substitute reality with its own vision ... in a sort of political schizophrenia, an ideological unconciousness that makes it lose all sense of reality," said prominent dissident Elizardo Sanchez. That "is an enormous obstacle" to potential reforms," he told AFP.
The Cuban president drew fire from nearly all corners abroad when in April a tough crackdown against dissidents rounded up 75 of his political opponents and sentenced them to up to 28 years in prison. Then, three people who tried to hijack a commuter ferry to get to the United States faced swift summary trials and execution. ***
Still, Gutiérrez-Menoyo has demonstrated that he has no use for that industry or for U.S. government help. ''I'm independent,'' he said. ''I'm not manipulated by the (U.S.) Interests Section.'' We'll soon see if he's manipulated by Castro.
His decision to stay in Cuba couldn't come at a more difficult time for the Bush administration. Its Cuba policy is in disarray -- or, more accurately, it isn't configured to deal with current realities. Even Gov. Jeb Bush has said so publicly. ''It's just not right,'' the governor told The Herald, referring to sending Cuban refugees back to negotiated prison sentences.
The White House was worried enough to dispatch presidential advisor Otto Reich to Miami to get disgruntled Cuban exiles back on the GOP reservation.
It will take more than calming words from Reich, who managed to put his foot in his mouth. He trotted out a cockamamie theory about the Castro regime's sending out balseros to force the Coast Guard to return them, to roil Cuban Americans.***
"Oscar doesn't even know what they gave him. We don't even know what kind of treatment they are giving him," Leiva said by phone from Havana. "They are all-powerful, and we are helpless."
As the health of more than a dozen jailed Cuban dissidents like Espinosa deteriorates, U.S. officials and human rights groups say the Cuban government is purposefully denying them proper medical care. Their illnesses range from poor circulation to kidney trouble and gastritis, and "the Cuban authorities don't appear prepared" to provide them with adequate medication, said Eric Olson, Amnesty International's Americas advocacy director. This week, the United States said 75 dissidents arrested this spring are being held in "appalling conditions, with very poor sanitation, contaminated water and nearly inedible food."
"The Cuban government appears to be going out of its way to treat these prisoners inhumanely," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said.
The United States called on the Cuban government to let independent groups like the International Committee of the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders evaluate the patients.
Doctors Without Borders hasn't had a Cuba program for three years because the group was not allowed to act independently, spokesman Kevin Phelan said. [End]
The shipment, the latest of several summer deliveries, raised to nearly 450 the number of U.S. cattle that have been sent to Cuba since Congress in 2000 exempted U.S. food and agricultural products from the overall trade embargo, provided Cuba pays cash. ***
Cuban President Fidel Castro, right, talks with Spain Prince Felipe during lunch in Asuncion, Paraguay, Friday, August. 15, 2003. Castro and Felipe traveled to Paraguay to attend New Paraguayan President Nicanor Duarte swearing-in ceremony. (AP Photo/Dado Galdieri)
Many cheered at the mere sight of the gray-bearded leader and chanted "Ole! Ole! Fidel! Ole!" and "A people united will never be defeated!"
It was Castro's first visit to Paraguay. The communist leader was long considered persona non grata here during the right-wing military dictatorship of Gen. Alfredo Stroessner, who ruled from 1954 until 1989. Professing a deep aversion to communism, Stroessner long considered the Soviet Union and Cuba top enemies.***
On Saturday, Castro seemed more the object of celebrity adulation by leftist sympathizers and others in post-dictatorship Paraguay. Turning to the crowd, Castro likened the United States to the "Rome of antiquity" and outlined arguments defending his communist state. At one point, many in the crowd sang "Happy Birthday" to the Cuban leader - and he appeared touched, shedding a few tears. ***
But Sanchez, president of the Cuban Human Rights Commission, vehemently denied the allegations as an effort to discredit his opposition to Castro. "It's a colossal lie," the 59-year-old activist told reporters at his home. "It is part of a campaign, like those in the former Soviet Union, to disqualify and silence dissidents," he said.
The book has sown further disarray and suspicion among Cuba's small dissident movement already shaken by mass arrests in March and the surfacing of a dozen infiltrators as witnesses during the trials of 75 members. The dissidents were sentenced to prison terms of up to 28 years. Sanchez, who spent 8 1/2 years in jail in the 1980s, said the book entitled "El Camajan" (The Rogue), was a montage of true and fabricated events. But the former Marxist professor who became a dissident in 1977 had difficulty explaining photographs in the book showing him apparently being decorated for his work by a Cuban intelligence service colonel. The pictures show him hugging the officer and toasting the occasion. ***
Satellite-broadcasting experts said at the time that since Tehran could not jam the Telstar-12, due to its stationary position, it made the request for friendly Cuba to do it instead.
But on Wednesday a spokeswoman for the US State Department said that Havana had informed them that the jamming was made by the Iranians in Cuba, using a compound in a suburb of the capital belonging to the Iranian embassy.
According to a source, the Cubans have now shut down the facility and presented a protest note to the Iranian government in Tehran, and the jamming stopped earlier this month. "Cuba informed us on August 3 that they had located the source of the interference and had taken action to stop it," Jo-Anne Prokopowicz of the State Department said. "The government of Cuba informed us that the interference was coming from an Iranian diplomatic facility," she said, adding, "We will be following this up with Iran."
After denying that it was responsible for the jamming but pledging to investigate the US complaints in mid-July, Cuba told the US that it had found the source and that it had acted to stop it, she said.
The news surprised many Iranian observers, doubting Cuban leader Fidel Castro's "innocence" in the affair. "Being a fully police state, it is difficult to believe that the Iranians had introduced the sophisticated jamming equipment into Cuba without the knowledge of the Cuban authorities," Dr Shahin Fatemi, a veteran Iranian political analyst, told The Asia Times Online. ***
Dr. Biscet has written: "I say to my brothers in exile, the international community and the Cuban people that I feel kidnapped only for defending the right to life and the right of all Cubans to live in freedom. What inspires me is alive: God and the great teachers of non-violence present today more than ever. As Martin Luther King said: 'If a nation is capable of finding amongst its ranks of people 5% willing to go voluntarily to prison for a cause they consider just, then no obstacle will stand in their way.'"
That is precisely what Castro fears. The Free World has a moral obligation to pay attention to the victims in his gulag. ***
It has. But Mr Chavez may not have bargained that the rows of lettuce, cucumber and mint now thriving amidst the traffic and high-rises of downtown Caracas would also produce a harvest of controversy.
The controversy has arisen because many of the advisers assisting with the gardening programme are Cubans. And Mr Chavez's opponents, who accuse him of desiring to convert Venezuela into a communist dictatorship similar to that led by his friend, Cuban leader Fidel Castro, suspect that the Cubans are here to do more than teach farming. ***
Castro: U.S. Exile TV Broadcast Will Fail***Cuba calls the broadcasts by TV Marti an attempt by the U.S. government and Cuban exiles to impose their political views. Castro said earlier efforts to thwart the Cuban government's jamming of TV Marti's signal have failed. "Up to now, experience has shown that it has gone badly," Castro said Friday. He commented on the new attempt by saying: "I read something about that and I was laughing. They are always inventing something."
The Miami-based Office of Cuba Broadcasting says that within days it will use a satellite located over the east Atlantic Ocean off the African coast to strengthen TV and Radio Marti signals.
TV Marti, which went on the air in 1990, broadcasts its signal from a balloon tethered to Cudjoe Key in Florida, about 20 miles east of Key West, Fla. But because of Cuba's jamming of the signal, very few people on the island have ever seen TV Marti. Only satellite dishes will be able to pick up the signal. Although Cuba prohibits most ordinary citizens from having satellite dishes, as many as 20,000 families on this island of 11.2 million are estimated to have satellite antenna and reception equipment purchased illegally on the black market. ***
"What they have done is absolutely insignificant given the gravity of the problem," Chavez said, blaming globalization and failed neoliberal economic policies. "Neoliberalism has been defeated," Chavez proclaimed to audience applause. "Now we're going to bury it, starting this century."
Chavez and Castro are strong political allies and close friends. Chavez thanked the Cuban leader for technological assistance that he said helped sharply reduce Venezuela's illiteracy rates. Chavez contends that an "oligarchy" bent on ousting a democratically elected leader has sabotaged his efforts to fight for the poor.
The 13 heads of state and government from Africa and the Caribbean attending the U.N. conference also included the presidents of Zimbabwe, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Mali and Namibia and the prime ministers of Lesotho, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Many of the Africa presidents in attendance hail from countries whose independence struggles were aided by Cuba in the 1980s and 1990s.
"Coming to Cuba is to come to a country where there are true friends of Africa," Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe said. Mugabe is the target of widespread international criticism. Zimbabwe was suspended for a year from the decision-making councils of the Commonwealth of Britain and its former terrorities because of concerns about human rights and disputed presidential elections Mugabe narrowly won last year.***
The large audience had mostly come to show support for relaxing the current laws against commerce with Cuba. The embargo, its opponents aver, has not brought positive changes to Cuban society. An American economic presence in Cuba, they say, can only be more beneficial than its absence has been.
An abundant irony is that many people who make this argument are those who still sentimentalize Castro. At the San Francisco meeting, the loudest applause went to a speaker who restated the very litanies the regime has employed for nearly fifty years to justify itself. And in the face of conventional wisdom, one must clarify that the embargo law was never meant to cause reform in Cuba. Its purpose was to turn away from a regime that-under the guise of socialization -had just stolen about one billion dollars in U.S. properties.
The heart of the current anti-embargo stand is a plea for constructive engagement. Its advocates posit that when American citizens come face to face with Cuban citizens, mutual understanding will flower and democratic tendencies will spread. Actually, some of that did happen when Castros regime opened the door to family visits by Cuban exiles; but business-to-business relations are much more doubtful, because independent enterprise does not exist in Cuba. American companies would be dealing not with Cuban counterparts but directly-and whether they know it or not-with Castros security forces; a prospect that offers no hope of amelioration to ordinary Cubans.
Unlike U.S. companies, Cubas enterprises are completely dominated by government officials and informants. Any sign of disloyalty can bring the gravest consequence. Workers have no right to collective bargaining; any attempt to organize among workers is met with ostracism, demotion, dismissal, or with arrest and lengthy imprisonment. Foreign businesses that employ Cuban workers do not pay those workers directly. Payments are made to the state, which keeps nearly all the money and doles out a pittance to workers who receive, on average, about fifteen dollars a month. The fact that even so small an amount is paid in dollars makes the deal attractive to Cubans, who gladly accept jobs in foreign companies.
This setup is a potential boon to offshore investors who can acquire the services of skilled workers without labor troubles, and without concerns about how workers are treated. A further irony-given the extensive support Castros regime has enjoyed in the West-is that such arrangements, far from fostering a general welfare, have led to the kind of hyper-exploitation that once occurred in pre-capitalist, feudal societies.
Even if our Western countries have no current experience in this regard, we do have words for a condition in which people must do as they are told, say and think as they are told, work as they are told, consume as they are told, live where they are told-with ones only chance for a self-determined life residing in escape. One of those words is serfdom; another is slavery. ***
As Colas described it: "I used Fidel's words to protect myself."
He started with more than a thousand books, many of them brought into the country by a friend authorized to travel abroad. Other materials had been provided by the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana.
Colas, an intense man who is the son of peasants, said word of his audacious initiative spread quickly. Within 12 days, a counterpart library opened in Cuba's second largest city, Santiago. Before long, all 14 provinces had one.
From abroad, books started coming in from Sweden, the United States, Colombia, Costa Rica, Argentina, Canada, Spain, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
In time, the authorities started cracking down. Colas, who had become a traveling salesman on behalf of his idea, was told to stay home.
His wife was fired from her job as an accounting professor. His two children, then 14 and 8, were shunned by their friends and were warned by school authorities that education in Cuba was exclusively for supporters of the revolution.
Colas applied for political asylum. The family received their U.S. visas in October 2000. The Cuban government granted them permission to leave in December 2001.
But his campaign for independent libraries persists, and he wants the Bush administration to embrace it. ***
European Union legislators passed a joint resolution criticizing "the continuing flagrant violation of the civil and political human rights and the fundamental freedoms of members of the Cuban opposition and of independent journalists."
On Wednesday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini, whose country holds the EU presidency, told the legislature that the human rights situation continues to deteriorate on the Caribbean island.
In July, Castro said his country would no longer accept aid from the EU, accusing it of backing the anti-Castro policy of the United States.
EU members have already agreed to reduce high-level governmental visits and participation in cultural events on the island.
Since 1993, the EU has provided over $156 million in aid to Cuba. [End]
"They point out that, despite four decades of sanctions against his government, Castro remains in power," Grassley said. "They also contend that U.S. farmers and businesses are losing trade opportunities in Cuba to their counterparts in other countries."
But Grassley also explained that other lawmakers "believe that now is not the proper time to change U.S. trade policies," given that Castro's record on human rights has "become even more egregious during the past year" and that "lifting trade restrictions will in effect reward Castro for his actions."
State Department Under Secretary Al Larsen testified on the problems American businesses face over investing in Cuban markets.
"The reality of the situation is that investing in Cuba remains a very risky proposition," Larsen said. "Proceeds from foreign investment go principally to the coffers of the Cuban state. Any economic benefit derived from tourism or other joint ventures does not filter down to the average Cuban citizen."
Larsen also pointed to the "very serious issue" of Cuban creditworthiness.
"According to its own figures Cuba owes nearly $11 billion to the creditors of the Paris Club," Larsen explained. The business information provider, Dun and Bradstreet, rated Cuba as one of the riskiest economies in the world."
Commerce Department Under Secretary Grant Aldonas pointed out that the State Department has identified Cuba as one of seven countries on its list of terrorist-sponsoring countries.
Aldonas added that lifting the trade embargo would produce minimal results anyway since Castro would likely allow very little to be traded.
Still, the committee's ranking minority committee member, Montana Democrat Max Baucus, said his state would benefit from agricultural trade with Cuba.***
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on Tuesday on an amendment that would deny the Bush administration the funds it needs to enforce the travel restrictions.
"Sunbathers are not going to liberate Cuba nor is upgrading the brunch at Cuba's isolated tourist enclave hotels," Assistant Secretary of State Roger Noriega told an event at the Center of Strategic and International Studies.
The U.S. government requires licenses to visit Cuba but does not give them to tourists, arguing that tourism dollars strengthen the government without benefiting the people.
A coalition of business organizations and human rights groups have been making a determined push to overturn the embargo and the travel restrictions, saying they have failed to topple Fidel Castro and have provided the leader with an excuse for the island's economic woes.
A similar amendment passed last year in the House by a 262-167 margin but did not pass in the Senate. Embargo opponents say the Senate is now more receptive to a lifting of the travel ban.
Noriega ridiculed the idea that President Bush should follow the lead of a congressional majority and refrain from using his veto power against an end to the restrictions.
"Why else would a president threaten to veto something that he didn't like? If it didn't have majority support in the Congress, you wouldn't have to veto it. You'd just sit back and watch it crash," he joked.
Last week the White House said that lifting sanctions now "would provide a helping hand to a desperate and repressive regime at the expense of the Cuban people" and that "the President's senior advisers would recommend a veto.
Analysts say U.S. policy toward Cuba is heavily influenced by the views of Cuban-American voters, especially those in southern Florida. The most vocal Cuban-Americans support the embargo but the level of support has been slipping over time. [End]
A three-lawyer committee said, "it was crystal clear ... that Mr. Sanders believes himself to be absolutely morally justified in breaking the law." The panel said it viewed him as one who "detaches himself from responsibility to obey the law by endeavoring to distinguish the morality of the law from its legality."***
''Ever since the pope's visit [in 1998], Cuba has increasingly experienced a return to the language and methods typical of the early years of the revolution,'' said an 11-page document issued by the 13-member Cuban Bishops Conference in Havana.
''We again ask the country's authorities for a gesture of clemency toward these people who are in jail, above all considering -- from a humanitarian standpoint -- the conditions of their age, state of health and sex that require special attention,'' the statement added.
The statement, couched in strong but respectful language, was the first time in a decade that the Cuban bishops have criticized the human-rights record of President Fidel Castro's government in such a formal and public manner.***
"The economic, financial and commercial blockade the United States has maintained against Cuba for more than four decades has not only been scrupulously applied, but strengthened over the last two years," Cuban Foreign Minister Felipe Perez Roque said at a Havana news conference.
In Washington, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Sean McCormack did not dispute that view. "President Bush has made very clear that he not only supports the embargo, he supports the strengthened enforcement of the embargo and he has taken stopes to do that under his presidency," he said. ***
Former Polish President Lech Walesa, former Czech President Vaclav Havel and former Hungarian President Arpad Goncz made their call in a letter to the Daily Telegraph and several other leading European newspapers.
The letter from men who were themselves victims of communist oppression is likely to bring a furious response from the Cuban regime, which is acutely sensitive to attacks from countries which were once its closest allies.
Writing six months to the day after the regime sentenced 75 opposition figures to lengthy terms of imprisonment, the three men described the Castro regime as weak and desperate, but condemned current European Union and American policy as a failure.***
Coleman cited the Cuban government's crackdown on the opposition in March, when 75 dissidents were rounded up and sentenced to prison terms of between six and 28 years.
"I think about the folks in prison and what message that gives them," the Minnesota Republican said.
American moves to eliminate the 40-year-old trade and travel sanctions have "been building for some time, but it's not there yet," Coleman told a small group of American reporters in Havana. "And the March actions create a problem."
Coleman, however, said releasing some or all of the 75 dissidents "would be a good gesture," and would "increase the prospects" for American support to end the trade embargo and travel restrictions.
Coleman arrived here Friday for a four-day visit to study human rights and trade issues.
Coleman is chairman of the Western Hemisphere Subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee. He is especially interested in future business for Minnesota farmers.
Coleman met with parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon and other communist officials and could meet President Fidel Castro before leaving Monday.
Coleman in the past has said he believes that eliminating the trade and travel restrictions could help nurture democracy and human rights in the Caribbean nation.
But after meeting Saturday with dissidents and the relatives of jailed opponents, he said the timing is wrong.
Minnesota farmers have sold about $70 million in agricultural products to Cuba since communist officials began taking advantage of a 2000 law that created an exception to the sanctions. [End]
Castro must realize that even if he relents and sets Rivero and others free, they are likely to stay in Cuba. Rivero has long understood that Castro may be the Father of the Cuban Revolution, but that the revolution's children are increasingly restive. Castro can deny their simple truths like a Cuban King Lear, but Rivero and others persist. They witness. They write.
Over the years, the authorities picked up Rivero, questioned him, harassed him, and tried to nudge him off the island. But Rivero stayed. Others did, too.***
Cuban dissidents and their supporters have asked Silva to intervene on behalf of 75 activists sentenced to long prison terms after a crackdown this year. Silva should demand the release of the country's political prisoners, Cuban democracy activist Oswaldo Paya said in an interview published Sunday in the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper. "Brazil should defend an opening in Cuba and a dialogue between the government and the opposition," Paya said.
The Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders has asked the Brazilian president to press for the release of the 26 independent journalists among the 75 jailed dissidents. While recognizing Silva's political affinities with Castro, the press group wrote this week that "no democrat of the left or right would understand if these affinities were to take precedence over respect for human rights." In 2002 Brazil exported $95 million worth of products to Cuba and imported less than $10 million.
Brazilian diplomats have said the president has no plans to meet with dissidents on the island. Economic issues will also be on the table during Silva's visit. Brazil's national Development Bank is negotiating a credit line of up to $400 million to finance Cuban imports of Brazilian machinery, farm equipment and food.***
Analysts said that if Brazil extends a credit line worth $400 million to finance Brazilian exports to Cuba, it would give the South American nation a foothold in the region. But Brazil, apparently concerned about a perception of thumbing its nose at the United States, has discreetly asked Cuba not to spew anti-American rhetoric while da Silva is on Cuban soil, according to Brazilian media reports. A flamboyant welcome with a million Cubans on the streets also was reportedly declined.***