Cuba's unhappy birthday
By Jeff Jacoby | GLOBE COLUMNIST DECEMBER 29, 2013
NEW YEAR'S Day marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba's communist
revolution. It is the only full-blown dictatorship in the Western
Hemisphere. As Human Rights Watch noted in April, no other country in
Latin America is ruled by a regime that "represses virtually all forms
of political dissent." More than half a century after Fidel Castro
seized power with the promise that "all rights and freedoms will be
reinstituted" — and more than seven years since Raul Castro succeeded
his brother as tyrant-in-chief — Cuba is consistently rated "Not Free"
in Freedom House's annual index of political and civil liberties worldwide.
All this is borne out by the US State Department's most recent report on
Cuba's human-rights practices. Although written in mostly dry
bureaucratese, the document confirms that the island is no Caribbean
paradise for Cubans who have the temerity to oppose the regime. Skim
just the opening paragraphs and phrase after phrase stands out, evoking
the reasons why Cubans remain so desperate for freedom that even now
many will gamble their lives at sea to escape the Castro brothers'
"Authoritarian state" . . . "Communist Party the only legal party" . . .
"elections were neither free nor fair" . . . "government threats,
intimidation, mobs, harassment" . . . "record number of politically
motivated [and] violent short-term detentions."
So when dissidents and pro-democracy activists held peaceful gatherings
across the island to commemorate International Human Rights Day on Dec.
10, they knew what to expect. Security agents were deployed to threaten,
beat, and arrest the protesters; meetings were violently broken up; as
many as 300 people were detained. Among the victims were dozens of
members of Ladies in White, a dissident movement comprising the wives
and mothers of Cuban prisoners of conscience. At least one woman was so
severely beaten that she was taken to the hospital in Santiago for
It would be heartening to report that the world erupted in outrage at
this latest illustration of the Castro government's brutality, which was
all the more vile given Cuba's recent election to the UN Human Rights
Council. Alas, no. While Raul Castro's thugs were attacking and
arresting nonviolent dissidents, Castro himself was at Nelson Mandela's
funeral in Soweto, where Barack Obama greeted the dictator with a
friendly handshake. That got plenty of attention. It certainly got more
than any gesture Obama has ever made to show solidarity with Cuba's
beleaguered human-rights heroes.
When he was running for president, Obama told voters in Florida that he
would "never, ever compromise the cause of liberty" and that his policy
toward Cuba would "be guided by one word: libertad." In reality his
policy has amounted to little more than dialing back US restrictions on
travel and business with Cuba. That has proven an ideal way to further
enrich the Castros and the Cuban military. It has done nothing to
mitigate human rights atrocities in the hemisphere's most unfree country.
If the president wishes to send a powerful message of support and
encouragement to the champions of Cuban libertad, he need only share
their stories with the world. Men and women are still being persecuted,
tortured, and murdered in the Castros' hellhole. Dissidents still
disappear. Or die in suspicious road accidents. Or are drowned while
trying to flee the country.
Perhaps the president could spare a few minutes to look at a new report
from the Cuba Archive, a US-based research project that seeks to
meticulously chronicle every political killing or disappearance
committed by Cuban rulers dating back to the Batista regime in 1952. For
all the speculation that Raul's accession to power would finally usher
Cuba into a new era of pragmatism and reform, the toll in human lives
keeps climbing higher and higher.
A president who has sworn to "never, ever, compromise the cause of
liberty" might speak out, for example, about the fate of Roberto Amelia
Franco Alfaro, who was warned by the police to stop opposing the
government — and then disappeared when he wouldn't. He might call
attention to the death of Sergio Diaz Larrastegui, a blind human-rights
activist who was threatened with revenge if he wouldn't turn informer —
then fell abruptly, fatally ill. There have been scores of such cases in
recent years, tens of thousands in the last few decades.
There is only one dictatorship in the Americas. On New Year's Day it
turns another year older. Cry, the beloved island.
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter
Source: The Castro tyranny turns another year older - Opinion - The
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