Speak up against totalitarian rule
Posted on Wed, Apr. 30, 2008
By FRANK CALZON
In his book The Case for Democracy: The Power to Overcome Tyranny and
Terror, Natan Sharansky, the former Israeli Cabinet member and one-time
Soviet dissident, writes that three conditions must exist for people to
break free of totalitarian rule: • People must want freedom enough to
risk much of what they have to get it. • Other people in the world must
believe that those who are seeking freedom deserve it and be willing to
• Democratic nations must be willing to condition their foreign policies
to support political reform in an oppressive country.
Developments in Germany and Cuba this week, attest to Sharanksy's wisdom
on all three counts. In Cuba there was an episode reminiscent of Martin
Luther King Jr.'s struggle for human rights. Ten Cuban women -- mothers,
wives and daughters of political prisoners in Cuba and part of a group
known as the Ladies in White -- gathered at a park to deliver a petition
to the Interior Ministry seeking the release of their loved ones. Cuban
government thugs set upon the women. A hundred police and security
guards showed up, insulted the women, roughed them up and dragged away.
The incident touched Europeans. In 2005 the European Parliament awarded
the Ladies in White the Sakharov Award for daring to assert their
Freedom of Conscience.
Meanwhile, in Bonn a group of German human rights activists was
picketing the Cuban government's consulate. The Frankfurt-based
International Society for Human Rights sponsored the demonstration,
which came on the eve of the organization's annual congress. The
congress will focus on the abuse of human rights in Cuba, Tibet and
several other countries with totalitarian governments.
So two of Sharansky's conditions are being met. What remains to be seen
is whether the European nations, which will be meeting in Brussels in
July to review their common Cuba positions, will muster the will to link
their political, economic and cultural foreign policies to substantive
reforms by the Castro brothers.
As the courageous Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci once wrote, ``There
are times in life in which to remain silent is an error, and to speak up
becomes an obligation.''
More and more men and women in the world seem willing to support the
legitimate democratic aspirations of people living in Cuba, Tibet, Burma
and other totalitarian states and to speak out against the world's
assassins and executioners.
Maybe that's because there hasn't been time enough for Germans to forget
the suffering inflicted upon them by the East Germany STASSI and border
guards who like Cuba's border guards shot to kill anyone trying to flee.
Much the same can be said about those who fled communism in Poland,
although there, after declaring martial law, Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski
eventually resigned and opened the door to a rule of law and Solidarity.
Jaruzelski's decision was good not only for the Poles but also for
himself. Unlike other dictators, he continues to live in his country.
The point to emphasis here is that most of Eastern Europe remembers
communism and willingly supports democracy's advocates in Cuba. The
Ladies in White and the ever-growing numbers of political prisoners in
Cuba are constant reminders that the struggle for human rights is
universal. The presence of the international media in that Havana park
provided some protection to the Ladies in White.
Perhaps one day, like the Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, Spanish and other
human rights activists, those who defend human rights in Cuba will
obtain the freedom they seek and, then, lend support to efforts to
defend human rights and liberty elsewhere.
Having witnessed the iron fist of Raúl Castro come down on the Ladies in
White, it would be tragic should Europeans suddenly turn silent instead.
The communist military regime in Havana will not last forever. The Cuban
people will remember those like José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in Spain,
who support the Castro brothers' regime, as well as others like the
demonstrators in Bonn, who embrace Europe's heritage of freedom and
offer support to Cubans in their time of need.
Frank Calzón is executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba in