Unprecedented clampdown on Cuban dissidents

Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 04:09 pm
Castro aims for long sentences for 78 dissidents

5 april 2003

AP, Reuters
(translated back from Dutch)
de Volkskrant

The Cuban government is making haste these days with the court cases of 78 recently arrested dissidents. It is a clampdown on the Cuban opposition of unprecedented large scale. After years of relative freedom the Fidel Castro regime tries to silence his opponents on the island.

[..] Prosecutors have demanded twelve times life and further prison sentences of between 12 and 25 years. [..]Among the dissidents are many signatories of the Varela Project petition, which has been pleading for more democracy in the communist state since last year. The leader of the Varela Project, Oswaldo Paya, has not been arrested. Among those prosecuted are the economist and human rights activist Martha Beatriz Roque and the poet and journalist Raul Rivero.

"The government has never sentenced so many people at a time for their political conviction, or demanded such draconic punishments", says Elizardo Sanchez, chair of the independent Cuban Human Rights Commission.

Almost all the charges are of treason or high treason. The charges are of breaking Law 88, which was adopted in 1999, and allows for harsh sentences. The law has not been used earlier.

Cause for this judicial campaign was the support the American envoy on Cuba, James Cason, had started to extend to dissident movements ever more openly. [..] The American computers and faxes that the dissidents had been given have been confiscated again. [..]

What to do, what to do ... ?
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 04:28 pm
More ...

Apr 8, 10:19 AM EDT

Cuba Condemned for Jailing Dissidents

Associated Press Writer

HAVANA (AP) -- Human rights activists and the U.S. government condemned Cuba for sentencing critics of the regime to long prison terms in a crackdown [..] Fidel Castro's government sentenced activists, journalists and an economist to up to 27 years in prison Monday for allegedly collaborating with U.S. diplomats to undermine the socialist state.

"We are witnessing the harshest political trials of the past decade," said veteran human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez, one of the few leading opponents of the regime not arrested after the crackdown began last month.

Sanchez's non-governmental Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation said prosecutors originally sought life sentences for a dozen of the dissidents, among 80 facing closed trials that began Thursday.

It was unclear how many dissidents have been sentenced so far, but activists have been unable to confirm any life sentences. The shortest sentence was 15 years.

The longest sentence confirmed by Monday was 27 years for independent journalist Omar Rodriguez Saludes. A familiar figure in the dissident community, Rodriguez Saludes often rode his bicycle to news conferences, a camera dangling from a strap around his neck.

Opposition political party leader Hector Palacios, among those originally recommended for a life sentence, received 25 years, said his wife, Gisela Delgado.

Palacios is a leading organizer of the Varela Project, which gathered more than 11,000 signatures supporting a referendum on new laws guaranteeing civil liberties such as freedom of speech and private business ownership. The island's parliament shelved the request.

Palacios was among the dissidents who met with former President Jimmy Carter, who visited the island in May and used a live speech to the Cuban people to bluntly describe the country as undemocratic and to publicize the Varela project.

"This is an injustice," Delgado said after learning of her husband's sentence Monday morning. "We are as Cuban as members of the Communist Party." [..]

Jose Miguel Vivanco, of Human Rights Watch, urged the United Nations Human Rights Commission meeting in Geneva to condemn Cuba for the sentences.

In Stockholm, Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh warned that the crackdown could hurt Cuba's prospects for more cooperation with the European Union.

"The mass arrests of dissidents that have taken place lately are one more example of the human rights violations being committed in Cuba," Lindh said.

The crackdown, which ended several years of relative tolerance, began when Cuban officials criticized the head of the American mission in Havana, James Cason, for actively supporting the island's opposition. [..]

Also sentenced Monday was independent journalist Raul Rivero, who received the full 20 years prosecutors sought, said his wife, Blanca Reyes.

"This is a crime for a man who has only written the truth," Reyes said.

Dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque and independent journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe each received 20-year sentences, their relatives said.
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 04:36 pm
Fidel is a shrewd man. Perfect timing. While the whole world is looking at Iraq he commits new, atrocious, violations of human rights.

What to say?
Well, as long as some of us still believe in multilateralism, then the Human Rights Commission will have to condemn the Cuban government.

The AP note says that this crackdown "ended several years of relative tolerance". I really don't know what "relative tolerance" means to the reporter. The Cuban Revolution is long dead. Cuba is a Fascist Police State.
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 04:59 pm
I remember a few weeks ago a story about the delivery of books to Cuba and the hubbabaloo that caused. Anything to do with this? Why the crack down now? I can't believe that it's just because all eyes are on Iraq. We haven't had our attention on Cuba for quite some time.
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 05:20 pm
Castro knows perfectly well that Bush is today's Bad Guy in world public opinion. This big crackdown would have swept European and Latin American media in peaceful times. Of course he's doing it because of the war. Most of the dissidents were arrested on march 19th. And the summary trials have been extraordinarily swift, the 78 must be condemned before the fighting in Iraq ends.

Cuba's laws are the most incredible and absurd you can imagine, defense attorneys are a mockery. The outcome of trials is, all the time, determined by politics, and politics alone.
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 05:27 pm
So, he can make a mockery of trial laws while people aren't watching - but, can he keep them in jail when people turn their attention back to Cuba?
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 05:29 pm
littlek wrote:
Why the crack down now? I can't believe that it's just because all eyes are on Iraq. We haven't had our attention on Cuba for quite some time.

Perhaps it is the James Cason thing. He does seem to have been more proactive in extending practical support and open recognition to the various dissidents. Perhaps the ever so slight resulting increase in their freedom of movement instilled in the Cuban regime the fear of erosion - an erosion of the totalitarian-ness of its power.

Little cracks can be dangerous for a regime that relies on an aura of unavoidability. The hint of a reasonable, native alternative, no matter how subtly made, such as that which the dissidents represented, is in principle much more dangerous to the regime than the ritual furor of the Miami exiles.

And yeh, Iraq will have provided a handy occassion perhaps - though you could argue the opposite, too (why taunt the US when its ready to move on to a next target?).
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 06:00 pm
littlek, in Cuba Castro has the powers of God. Perhaps if the Pope goes to Cuba and asks him to release them, he'll let out a few political prisoners that have been rotting in Cuban jails for years.
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Reply Tue 8 Apr, 2003 06:08 pm
no WMDs in Cuba, no links to Islamic fundamentalists, "international solidarity" that's only words, no oil, the possibility of losing the much valued and thanked political favor of the Cuban conservatives in Florida in case of excessive "collateral damage", probable outrage in all Latin America, no dominoes to fall.
Only a ruthless regime, who hungers and tortures it's people, where no freedoms are allowed, where leaving the country is considered a crime of treason, where citizens are compelled into forming Fast Action Brigades to hasle and control the slightest dissidence, where the secret police loots houses at will.
Nah! The light of American democracy is for Iraqi people.
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Reply Thu 10 Apr, 2003 02:04 pm
One of the dissidents was condemned for 25 years imprisonment for distributing this e-mail (my translation):

"Calling Cubans of all ages, races, sexes, cap sizes and zip codes:

Special attention must be put to protect and apply the right to retirement, specially for anyone who has held for over forty years positions of high responsability (it's understood that "positions of high responsability" are those in which the number of subordinates surpasses ten million). It will never be stressed enough that such persons, who have carried for four decades the enslaving burden of such high positions, must be encouraged, by any possible means, to calmly enjoy a deserved rest in any place situated at least three galaxies away from earth".

The judge considered this joke a call to assasinate The Unnamable.
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Reply Thu 10 Apr, 2003 03:34 pm
thats just awful. thats incredible. thanks for the update, anyway, fbaezer.
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Reply Fri 11 Apr, 2003 01:15 pm
"Justice" can be fast in Cuba:

Cuban hijackers executed
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 12:56 pm
The UN Human Rights Commission has voted today to urge Cuba to accept the visit of a Human Rights Commissioner to verify the situation in the island.

Castro's government has not let a HRC visit Cuba.
The official newspaper "Granma", had a word for every probable vote against their regime:
"The enemy has the following numerical majority:
The USA and Canada; the hegemonic superpower and a rich, relatively pacific, but totally dependent neighbor, in risk of being dissintegrated by the aggressive a voracious imperial system with which it's forced to coexist;
NATO and UE Europe, several of whose States supported the conquest war on Iraq, even if it strips them of the scarse control of Persian Gulf oil they could have had;
A group of former socialist European countries, of repugnant conduct and aggressive against whatever smells of Socialism, and ready to please the superpower;
Miserable Latin American puppets, like the governments of Peru, Uruguay and Costa Rica, models of abjection and treason;
Mexico and Chile, it is said that their governments will never do nothing to prevent the US annexion and absortion of our hemisphere through free trade treatises;
Lastly, the governments of Third World countries in critical situation, who have no margin to resist the terrible pressures and humilliation of the masters of the world".

This is how the vote went:

In favor of the Resolution

Costa Rica
Czech Republic
South Korea
United Kingdom
United States

Countries voting against the Uruguayan resolution on Cuba:

Democratic Republic of Congo
Saudi Arabia
South Africa

Countries abstaining on the Uruguayan resolution on Cuba:

Sierra Leon

<I think both the editorial of Granma and the list are telling>
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 03:42 pm
I do not think that the convicted dissidents will serve their jail terms: the regime in Cuba will not survive the physical death of Mr. Castro.
And when they are released from prison after his death, the very fact of their being involved in resistance to the regime will help them to make a political career(examples: the former Soviet dissident and CIA agent Anatole Sharansky, now a minister in the Israeli government; convicted to 13 years of labor camps for treason and espionage in the USSR in 1978, exchanged for the Soviet intelligence agents in 1986 or 87; or the Czech President Mr. Havel that also spent much time in prisons of the Communist Czechoslovakia) . I believe that the happy end of all this story will occur quite soon...
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Reply Thu 17 Apr, 2003 08:55 pm
Strange day, today, steissd. I've agreed with you twice.
Castro will not live 20 or 25 years (with the help of tests I've calculated that, if nothing weird happens, he'll die sometime between 2010 and 2016), and his regime will colapse.
My only hopes are that a civil war does not ensue and that Cubans find their way back to democracy WITHOUT the US direct intervention.
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