Skip to comments.Fidel Castro - Cuba
Posted on 04/14/2002 4:36:10 AM PDT by Cincinatus' Wife
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''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.***
IN THEORY, tourism could replace sugar as Cuba's chief source of hard currency-indeed, it has already done so. But tourism by itself will never produce anything like the level of prosperity Cuba enjoyed under the U.S. economic umbrella from 1901 to 1959 or even during the term of its membership in the Soviet commonwealth of nations from 1960 to 1991, when positive trade balances were secured and underwritten by a politico-military alliance.
There are several reasons for this. Since so little of value is produced on the island, most of what the tourist industry needs to sustain itself-including food-has to be imported. This is itself not an unusual situation in the Caribbean: according to official figures, Barbados, for example, manages to retain a mere nineteen cents out of every dollar entering that country. Although Cuba claims to keep 22 cents, that seems unlikely: in contrast to Barbados, it does not possess a small business class or a significant private agricultural sector to supply at least some goods and services. And even if the Cuban figure were correct, the island would have to gross more than $30 billion a year in order to replicate its former annual Soviet subsidy of $6 billion-a flatly impossible task. Mexico, which possesses a far more sophisticated infrastructure and boasts a vastly greater menu of attractions than Cuba, grosses $10 billion from tourism in a good year.
While the tourist industry has unquestionably provided a much-needed source of economic oxygen for the regime, it has also introduced new distortions into Cuban life. To anyone visiting the island, the most striking of these is the geometric growth in prostitution of both sexes. Another is the invidious comparisons that Cubans are now in a position to make between their own situation and that of ordinary tourists not only from European countries but from nearby Latin nations like Mexico, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and the Dominican Republic, not to mention the thousands of Cuban-Americans who are permitted under U.S. law to visit their families once a year. (Many, ignoring U.S. restrictions, visit as often as they like by traveling through third countries.) At the same time, Cuba's vaunted health-care system, which foreign visitors never fail to praise (often without actually bothering to visit a clinic or hospital), has been completely reoriented toward offering sophisticated services, including plastic surgery, to foreigners who can pay in dollars. Not surprisingly, clinics servicing ordinary Cubans often lack medicines, bandages, syringes, and other basics. (1.)
Since tourism-the only dynamic sector of the economy-can provide employment for only a tiny percentage of the Cuban work force, it has threatened to create a kind of worker's aristocracy (to use a Marxist term). The regime claims to have mitigated this danger by requiring all foreign enterprises, including many hotels and other tourist services, to hire personnel from a pool provided by the government, to which the foreign employers must also consign wages. The government then typically pays these workers at a rate of about a tenth of what they would earn in a free-market economy, with the remainder being transferred to what it calls prestaciones socials - that is, social services like free education, free health care, etc. It requires quite a stretch of the imagination to believe that the full 90 percent is being allocated to good works and that the Communist party, the army, and the police are not first taking their own hefty shares.
Vladimiro Roca -- recently released from five years in prison and the spokesman for an opposition group called "All United" -- said the EU measures "will put matters in perspective for Cuba, where the government justifies its actions in the name of a bilateral conflict with the United States." Tensions between Washington and Havana have soared since Cuba's recent jailing of the 75 political activists and executions.
In May US officials expelled 14 Cuban diplomats on espionage charges and is reportedly considering other measures. Washington has had a full sanctions regime imposed on Cuba, the only one-party communist country in the Americas, for more than four decades.***
"That is the problem," the official added. The Bush administration, he said, "has a very strong position, so there really is some difficulty in dealing with the issue of Cuba only in relation to human rights."
But the negative vote also appeared to reflect widespread doubts about the qualifications of the American candidate, Rafael E. Martinez. Born in Cuba, Mr. Martinez is an Orlando, Fla., lawyer best known for his expertise in medical malpractice and health law. He is a brother of Melquiades R. Martinez, the secretary of housing and urban development and a leading fund-raiser for the presidential campaign of George W. Bush among Cuban-Americans in Florida. ***
Castro marched through the narrow streets of Old Havana, while his brother Raul, head of the armed forces, marched through a residential neighborhood, past the Italian embassy. Followers carried placards equating Italy's fascist past to Europe's decision to punish Cuba.
The government said it expected the crowds to swell to more than a million, as the labor ministry gave workers the day off.
Posters depicted Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar as a "puppet" and a "little fuhrer."
Italian Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi became "Benito Berlusconi," in reference to Italian fascist leader Benito Mussolini.
Seventy-five dissidents were jailed in April for up to 28 years, and three men who had tried to hijack a commuter ferry to Florida were summarily executed, ending a moratorium on the death penalty.
The EU decided to review its Cuba policy and restrict political and cultural contact with the communist island and released a statement on June 5.
"It must have been written in a drunken state, if not with alcohol, in a state of Eurocentric drunkenness," Castro said late Wednesday.
He branded Aznar and Berlusconi "fascists" and "bandits" as the brains behind the EU's Cuba policy, which he called "useless ... lacking seriousness ... gross and insolent." ***
While Dodd appears satisfied by lengthy responses delivered by the State Department to Capitol Hill June 4 on the Haiti matter and Cason's role, his office has insisted on seeing the Huddleston cable. Just what is in her cable is not publicly known. Some congressional staffers say Dodd believes the cable contains warnings that the Bush administration policy of intense engagement with political dissidents in Cuba would lead to a crackdown. ***
''It's really despicable, rude, cynical and repugnant,'' Castro said of a State Department report issued Wednesday that blacklisted Cuba and 14 other countries for not making ''significant efforts'' to combat the trafficking of human beings, particularly of women and children.
While Powell did not draw up the report, Castro said during a three-hour speech closing an international meeting on culture and development held here, he did present it to the world.
''Mr. Powell should ponder a bit on this; it should make him feel a little ashamed,'' Castro said, adding that he hoped the secretary of state would ``show a modicum of decency and correct himself.''
In its reference to Cuba, the report said its government turns a blind eye to the exploitation of minors to gain much needed foreign currency.
Besides Cuba, the State Department's third annual ''Trafficking in Persons'' report cites Belize, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the Dominican Republic, Georgia, Greece, Haiti, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Myanmar, North Korea, Sudan, Suriname, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
The report has been criticized by the Women's Rights Division of the U.S.-based Human Rights Watch for lacking hard figures on the number of people being trafficked. [End]
Havana was responding to the 15-member European Union's announcement last week that it would review its relations with the island after a crackdown on the opposition and the firing-squad executions of three men who tried to hijack a ferry to South Florida. A government statement Saturday said Cuba was canceling its agreement with the Spanish Embassy, first signed in 1995 and renewed in September, to operate the cultural center in a renovated historic building facing the ocean in the capital's Old Havana district. ***
Cuban President Fidel Castro justified the executions of Jorge Luis Martinez Isaac, Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo and Barbaro Leodan Sevilla Garcia as a deterrent to another mass exodus. But some Cuba watchers, on and off the island, doubt that the three would have been put to death had they been white. ***