Skip to comments.Fidel Castro - Cuba
Posted on 04/14/2002 4:36:10 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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While the government paints them as spontaneous acts by committed socialists, Cuba-watchers say they are part of a concerted campaign by the Cuban government to quell opposition. Dissidents also have reported evictions, detentions, random acts of violence, 40 arrests and some confrontations with semi-official groups of tough men known as Rapid Response Brigades.
The flood of incidents against dissidents underscores a tenuous time in Cuba, as the government openly struggles to combat corruption and grapples with a fragile economy and a rising number of migrants headed to sea. Experts say it may also be a response to an increase in dissidence. A December report by the International Republican Institute recorded 1,805 acts of civil disobedience in 2004, up from 959 in 2002.
''We are seeing levels of oppression we haven't seen in 20 years in Cuba,'' said Caleb McCarry, the U.S. State Department's Cuba transition coordinator. ``It's a clear indication that the dictatorship fears the Cuban people.''
But Perez, a Cuban physician who fled to Colombia from Venezuela last year, faces one final hurdle: U.S. bureaucrats.
That's because Perez and dozens of other Cuban defectors who have fled from Venezuela have been waiting for months for permission from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota to emigrate to the land of their dreams.
"I want to be free," said Perez, 36, who lives in a slum in the Colombian capital with two other Cuban defectors. "But I don't know how long it will take."
Dispatched by Fidel Castro's government for humanitarian work in exchange for oil and other badly needed supplies, a small but growing number of Cuban medical personnel are using their foreign postings as stepping stones to the U.S.
The Bush administration is encouraging the defections. Last year, the Homeland Security Department, which oversees immigration services, modified rules to speed the doctors' requests for political asylum.
Experts say the number of Cuban health workers abandoning clinics in Venezuela and other countries could rise as word spreads of the U.S.program, which began in August. So far, at least 45 Cubans have made their way to Colombia.
"The floodgates will definitely open," said a spokeswoman for Solidarity Without Borders, a Miami-based group that helps Cuban physicians emigrate. "We've had calls from Cubans as far away as Namibia."
About 360 doctors, dentists and physical therapists have applied under the new Cuban Medical Professional Parole program. About 160 have been accepted, while most other cases are pending, said Ana Carbonell, chief of staff for Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., a longtime advocate for Cuban exiles
The biggest obstacle to his reforms is the psychological barrier formed by inertia, the defense of the status quo, the simulation the indifference or insensibility of Cubas bureaucracy,....
I warn that all bureaucratic resistance will be useless, he declared. We will be patient and at the same time persevere in the face of the resistance to change, be they conscious or unconscious.
Castros reform plans call for an increase in private enterprise and foreign investments, deep cuts in state subsidies, layoffs for more than 1 million public employees, fewer government controls on state enterprises and expansions in the legal sales of houses and vehicles.
But his words rang hollow to dissident economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, who argued that Castro has not seriously tackled a bureaucracy that traditionally derives special benefits from its ability to game the system and the petty corruption prevalent in Cuba.
He doesnt want to realize that the bureaucracy has its own mentality, based on its own benefits, Espinosa said by phone from Havana. And those benefits have not been destroyed. They remain intact.........
...During his speech, Castro also announced the government would take several steps to help Cubas fledgling micro-enterprises by cutting prices on raw materials and tools and allowing the businesses to obtain bank credits and hire up to five workers without paying extra taxes.
....Castro mentioned the painful case of an unidentified government official and Communist Party member who wrote to him to complain that she was almost fired from her job because she had not told her supervisors that she went to church on Sundays
The decision would mean relaxing the 19-year-old U.S. trade embargo against Cuba, which generally bars American commerce with the nation and caps the amount of American-made components in offshore drilling vessels and other equipment at 10 percent.
The federal government is taking measures to ensure that the appropriate private industry parties are able to respond quickly in the event of an oil spill in Cuban waters, said Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich. That includes issuing licenses that would allow U.S. companies to deploy booms, skimmers, dispersants, pumps and other equipment and supplies necessary to minimize environmental damage in the event of a spill.
Bromwich said the Treasury Department also is weighing whether to issue licenses to companies that own and operate containment equipment that is designed to capture crude from blown-out underwater wells. Two U.S. firms developed such subsea containment systems in response to last years Deepwater Horizon disasters, but there are no others that would be readily available in case of a well blowout near Cuba.
Under the embargo, individual companies can ask the Treasury Departments Office of Foreign Assets Control for licenses to travel to or do business with Cuba. At least two U.S. companies specializing in spill response already hold such permits."........