Web posted at: 6/26/2008 3:41:50
Source ::: AFP
HAVANA • An ex-intelligence officer seeking free travel rights for
Cubans has said his petition was rejected and denounced what he called
the "increase in totalitarian repression" under President Raul Castro.
Pedro Anibal Riera, also a former diplomat, said in a statement Tuesday
that Cuba's National Assembly, by failing to take action in the required
60-day period since his April request, has rejected his reform
effort. In the Americas' only one-party communist state, Riera's plan
seeks reforms, including allowing Cubans to enter and leave the country
freely; ending confiscation of property of those leaving Cuba
permanently; allowing Cubans who live abroad to vote; and permitting
Cubans living abroad to invest
in Cuba. Mariela Castro, a daughter of Raul Castro who is a sociologist
and sex educator, told Spain's La Vanguardia newspaper in an interview
last month that all Cubans who want to should be allowed to leave the
country freely as long as they have no criminal case pending.
Riera, 56, voiced disappointment that it had become "publicly" known
that the government was about to end travel restrictions, but then that
migration reform had ended up "stuck in a freezer somewhere."
He suggested that ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro might be the one
dragging feet behind the end to travel restrictions, and "that could be
why it has not happened."
Now "without even a reform process under way, a counter-reform and an
increase in totalitarian repression has begun," charged Riera, a former
consul in Mexico who was jailed for three years in Cuba after being
expelled from Mexico for using false documentation. "There has been zero
political opening, and timid economic measures, which don't even match
the more rational and effective parts of Soviet socialism or state
socialism," Riera said, referring to steps by Raul Castro's government
since he took over permanently in February.
Since then, Raul Castro, 77, has allowed Cubans to buy computers, own
mobile telephones, rent cars and spend nights in hotels previously only
accessible to foreigners — if they can afford such luxuries.
In the latest reform move, he announced this month that the government
was scrapping salary caps long meant to underscore egalitarianism but
which his administration says hurt productivity.
He also has implemented reforms that give farmers better pay and more
flexibility to buy farming equipment, a move designed to lessen the
impact of the world food crisis.
The younger Castro brother also has commuted 30 death sentences,
released some political prisoners, and signed human rights accords.
In addition, television has fewer taboos and Granma, the venerable
Communist Party mouthpiece, even has taken to publishing grievances from
But Raul Castro has made no nod to political pluralism, and his economic
reforms have been very limited.
A change on decades-old travel restrictions would be the most momentous
to date by his government.
The Spanish daily El Pais cited an unnamed government official in a
report in April as saying Raul Castro would give a green light soon to
migration reform, simplifying exit and entry permits and ending the
requirement for people to get permission to leave the country.