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.***