By The Guardian's (United Kingdom) John Keenan:
The plight of Cuba's hunger strikers
Cuba's neighbors should tell Castro's regime that if it wishes to avoid isolation it needs to improve its human rights record
Today marks the seventh anniversary of a vicious crackdown on opponents of the Castro regime in Cuba. In the spring of 2003, the news agenda was dominated by the preparations for the US-led invasion of Iraq. In Havana, 90 so-called "agents of the American enemy" were arrested. Among those incarcerated were teachers, doctors, union organizers, journalists, human rights activists and dissidents.
Seventy-five of those arrested were tried in circumstances which fell short of international standards. They were given jail sentences ranging from six to 28 years. As bombs fell on Baghdad, few voices were raised in protest at events in Cuba.
The anniversary this year is likely to receive more attention. One of those arrested in 2003, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, died last month following an 80-day hunger strike. Another dissident, Guillermo "Coco" Farinas, who began a hunger strike on February 24, is perilously close to death. A third political prisoner, Ariel Sigler Amaya, who has been in prison for 20 years, is in extremely poor health in a Havana hospital and, according to his family, is receiving inadequate treatment.
These developments have not gone entirely unnoticed. The European parliament has condemned the "avoidable and cruel death" of Tamayo and called on the communist dictatorship to release its political prisoners. Governments closer to the Caribbean island, however, have been more muted in their criticism. Leaders in the region find it more convenient to call for the United Kingdom to cede sovereignty over the Falklands than to denounce the human rights abuses of their neighbor. A new regional grouping, provisionally called the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, will hold its first meeting in Caracas next year and has the enthusiastic support of Raul Castro.
There is no chance that this body will speak out against the persecution of Castro's opponents. Latin American leaders are caught in a trap of their own making, believing that to criticize human rights abuses in Cuba is somehow to support Washington's embargo.
The despots in Havana seem to think that they can pursue the "China model" of modern development – reaching out with one hand for economic ties with foreign countries, while crushing internal dissent with the other. Cuba's neighbors need to tell Castro's regime that if it wishes to avoid isolation it needs to improve its human rights record. As the brave Cuban men and women who dare to speak out against their rulers are harassed, imprisoned and worse, the prospect remains shamefully remote.
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03/14 - 03/21
- Andy Garcia's Hope for Change
- Headline Defies Logic
- Castro's Brutality
- Quote of the Week
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- IACHR Concerned About Farinas
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- HSBC's Obsession With Tyrants
- (Literally) Projecting Zapata Tamayo
- Zapata Resolution Passed by Senate
- The Plight of Cuba's Hunger Strikers
- Letter to Spain's President
- Members of Congress Mark Crackdown
- Schoolkids Harassed for CAMBIO
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- Choking CHANGE
- Ladies in White Arrested
- Chavez's 30,000 Cuban Advisers
- Congressional Staff on Cuba Policy
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- Statement in Geneva
- Spain Loses Policy Battle
- "Fair Trade" Concerns (and Hypocrisy)
- Warrants for Cuba-Based Terrorists
- February Repressive Arrests Double
- It's No Time for Mixed Messages
- Spain's Epiphany
- A Lack of Protocol (and Judgment)
- Quote of the Week
- Canadian Spring Break Advisory
- Time to List Venezuela?
- From Fidel's Daughter
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