"Pro-Regime Crowds" in Tripoli and Havana

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Please read the following two news excerpts very carefully.

It would almost be funny, if it weren't so tragic.

- First, from the Daily Telegraph:

Gaddafi's regime arranges Tripoli crowds to denounce foreign military intervention

- Col. Muammar Gaddafi's regime mobilized loyal crowds throughout his strongholds to denounce foreign military intervention as the opening act in a bloody civil war.

Demonstrators, some as young as five, gathered around Tripoli to vow to defend Col Gaddafi, who took power in 1969 and is the only leader most of the population have ever known.

State television showed tribal chiefs, with shaking hands but loud voices, declaring their loyalty to the "state of the masses" in which Col Gaddafi plays only the role of "Brother Leader" [...]

As a police woman wearing epaulettes scribbled notes in a pad, it was easy to suppose that she was taking notes to ensure that none of the women were hostile to Col Gaddafi or sympathetic to those being killed for revolting against his 41-year regime.

- Then, from the AP:

Pro-government crowd taunts dissidents in Havana

HAVANA - Pro-government demonstrators surrounded the home of a leading Cuban dissident Friday, yelling insults at her and other opposition figures gathered inside to mark the anniversary of a notorious crackdown on dissent.

About 200 government supporters crowded outside the house of Laura Pollan, one of the leaders of the opposition group Damas de Blanco, or Ladies in White. They called the dissidents "worms" and shouted slogans in support of brothers Fidel and Raul Castro [...]

The government maintains the pro-government counter-demonstrations are spontaneous, but little is done to hide coordination between the crowds and state security officials who are also on the scene.

The Instability Index

The Economist has a great interactive tool that measures the instability of tyrants across North Africa and the Middle East.

Scroll over the countries for more information.

Yemen and Libya top the chart as the most unstable.

And as Penultimos Dias correctly points out -- the country whose data most closely resembles Cuba's is Libya.

PGA of America Objects to Cuba Resorts

Friday, March 18, 2011
Yesterday, we posted various legal concerns regarding the PGA's (UK) agreement to develop golf resorts in Cuba.

We commend The PGA of America for taking action today:

The PGA of America was made aware of an agreement between The PGA of Great Britain and Ireland and Leisure Canada to develop golf courses in Cuba on March 14. The PGA expressed strong opposition to this agreement and has taken steps to protect The PGA's brand.

Q: Is the PGA of America developing projects in Cuba with Leisure Canada?

A: There is no connection between the PGA of America and Leisure Canada's plans to develop golf courses in Cuba. The use of the PGA mark was not authorized by the PGA of America.

Q: Will the PGA brand be represented in Cuba by The PGA of Great Britain's agreement with Leisure Canada?

A: We are currently reviewing whether we have the legal ability to block the use of this mark in Cuba or Canada and intend to pursue all legal avenues to prevent the use of this mark for this project in Cuba.

Q: What is The PGA doing to prevent this from happening?

A: We intend to pursue all legal avenues to prevent the use of this mark for this project in Cuba.

Q: What is The PGA's position on golf development in Cuba?

A: The PGA of America adheres to the policies of the United States in regards to development in Cuba which limits American businesses from conducting business with Cuban interests.

Quote(s) of the Week

"[A]ct moderately, impartially, and with firmness in the defense of our principles without falling into sectarian extremism, but always intransigent in regards to liberty, justice, and democracy for Cuba."

-- Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, Cuban pro-democracy leader and former political prisoner, The Catholic Review, March 14, 2011

"The Tunisian people have made history once again. You have shown the world that peaceful change is possible. The United States stood with Tunisia during your independence, and now we will stand with you as you make the transition to democracy and prosperity and a better future."

-- U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during a visit to Tunisia, March 17, 2011

A "Covert" State-of Mind

Yesterday, with just simple click of the Internet, Along the Malecon's Tracey Eaton found all of USAID's Cuba democracy programs listed in the public website, USASpending.com.

But how could this be?

On the very same day, the Lexington Institute's Phil Peters argued in The Miami Herald that USAID's Cuba programs were "covert."

How could programs that are easily accessible via the World Wide Web be labeled as "covert"?

Apparently, Peters has now come around to concede that these programs are not "covert" to the free world, but that they are just "carried out covertly in Cuba."

A flattering correction. But also untrue.

These programs are also just a click on the Internet away from the Cuban people. However, the Castro brothers do not allow the Cuban people to freely access the World Wide Web.

Actually, if Castro would just allow the Cuban people to do so, then there would be no need for some of these programs.

It seems that these programs are only "covert" in the minds of Peters and the Castros.

Gadhafi Just Lost His Wings

Thursday, March 17, 2011
According to CNN:

U.N. Security Council approves no-fly zone over Libya

The U.N. Security Council on Thursday voted to approve a no-fly zone extending over all of Libya to try to halt Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's mounting attacks against rebel positions.

The resolution states that "all necessary means" can be used to enforce the no-fly zone. Flights to provide humanitarian aid, medicine or for evacuations are exempt.

PGA Agrees to Apartheid and Repression

This week, the tourism company, Leisure Canada, Inc., and the Professional Golf Association (PGA) announced an exclusive agreement to develop golf in Cuba (as minority partners of the Castro dictatorship).

As such, the agreement effectively makes the PGA a partner (and co-conspirator) in Castro's tourism apartheid and repression.

Obviously, golf resorts do not help the Cuban people one bit. To the contrary, their goal is to attract hard currency from high quality foreign tourists to the island's secluded resorts, which are majority-owned by the Castro regime and where interaction with the Cuban people is strictly regulated.

Therefore, it seeks to enrich the PGA's majority partner -- the Cuban military. It's widely known that no tourism-related transaction takes place in Cuba without Raul Castro's military (through its conglomerate GAESA) calling the shots and reaping the profits.

So the question remains -- is the PGA violating U.S. (sanctions) law?

At first read, the PGA is trying to use its British brand to skirt sanctions. However, the overwhelming majority of the PGA's business is US-based.

According to its own website (www.pga.com), the US-based PGA is the largest working sports organization in the world. And of the PGA's 45,000 members worldwide, 28,000 are US-based -- so they surely share trademarks, activities and resources.

In addition to sanctions, if the PGA is found to be conspiring with its partner (the Castro regime) in apartheid and other repressive activities, it can also become subject to U.S.-based civil suits under the Alien Tort Claims Act.

Here's the appalling press release:

Resort developer Leisure Canada Inc. announced it signed an exclusive agreement with the United Kingdom-based Professional Golfers Association Ltd. (PGA) for "future licensing" of the company's golf courses and associated real estate developments in Cuba.

Toronto-based Leisure Canada is developing three luxury resorts in Cuba; the Jibacoa resort is planned to include a golf course and condominiums.

Under the agreement, PGA granted Leisure Canada an exclusive long-term license in Cuba to jointly develop golf facilities. The PGA brand includes "PGA Village, Cuba", "PGA National, Cuba", "PGA National Golf Course, Cuba", "PGA National Golf Academy, Cuba", "PGA Golf Course", "PGA Resort Course", "PGA Golf Academy" and "PGA Academy Course".

Landing the prestigious PGA brand is a coup for Leisure Canada amid what could become a golf-related construction boom on the island. The Cuban government is expected to soon approve 16 golf course condominium projects by a half-dozen investor groups.

"With the PGA, we have found the ideal partner to develop the game of golf in Cuba alongside our development projects," said Leisure Canada Chairman Ned Goodman.

"Working together with the Cuban government and the people of Cuba, we hope to further develop the game of golf in the country for the benefit of tourists and Cubans alike", said Guy Moran, head of property and development for the PGA.

Founded in 1901, the PGA is the world's oldest professional golfers' association. The PGA, one of golf's leading bodies, manages almost 1,000 golf event days annually.

A Daughter Seeks Justice

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Daughter of Executed Cuban Seeks Justice

Yanisleydis Copello Rodríguez, an activist with the pro-democracy group, Cuban Independence and Democracy (CID), seeks justice for her father Lorenzo Enrique Copello Castillo, who was executed by orders of Fidel Castro on April 11, 2003.

She was only 11-years old when her father was executed for trying to flee Cuba in a vessel.

"At all times we were deceived, and I say 'we' because my father too was deceived. My father was a worker at the Reina Polyclinic, and he had no prior criminal record. They constantly told us they guaranteed he would live. Nonetheless, he was executed in the morning hours of April 11, 2003."

"The family was only told of his execution after his burial; I suffered trauma and received medical treatment, but I have never been able to recover. Having reached adulthood, I demand justice for the assassins who killed my father," Yanisleydis added.

Translation by Alberto de la Cruz.

Censorship vs. Absolute Control

An important point by Cuban author Humberto Fontova on the "trial" of American development worker Alan Gross and the brutal absolutism of the Castro regime:

So we'll never know the evidence, but the Castroite judge ruled that the Castroite prosecution, "demonstrated the participation of the North American contractor in a subversive project of the U.S. government that aimed to destroy the Revolution through the use of communication systems out of the control of authorities."

And there's the hitch: control of the authorities. Not even Libya or China seek to control, cell-phone and Internet access. Censor? Absolutely. But outright control of all means of communication is a fetish peculiar to Communists. (And no, the Chinese regime is no longer technically Communist, though certainly despicable and dangerous.)

How to Free Alan Gross

Tuesday, March 15, 2011
From the Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Gross Injustice

How to free Cuba's American hostage.

Over the weekend a sham Cuban court sentenced Alan Gross, an American citizen, to 15 years in prison for bringing computer equipment to the politically sealed island. The American government should be doing more to secure Mr. Gross's release.

A 61-year-old contractor for the U.S. Agency for International Development, Mr. Gross has been held since 2009. His crime was working on a democracy-promotion mission to bring Internet access to dissidents.

The State Department put out a statement saying that "We deplore this ruling... We call on the Government of Cuba to immediately and unconditionally release him." White House national security spokesman Tommy Vietor chimed in to say that Mr. Gross "has already spent too many days in detention and should not spend one more."

Such foot-stomping did not avert Mr. Gross's prison term, so a harsher response is overdue. A good place to start would be for the Administration to reconsider its recent bid for rapprochement with Havana, which included lifting certain restrictions on travel and remittances to the island. Conditioning future visas and Cuba's economic lifeline on Mr. Gross's release is the only message that the Castro brothers and their government will heed.

At the Mercy of Draconian Laws

From Amnesty International:

Repression of Cuban dissidents persists despite releases

The Cuban authorities are continuing to stifle freedom of expression on the island in spite of the much-publicised recent wave of releases of prominent dissidents, Amnesty International warned today on the eighth anniversary of a crackdown on activists.

Hundreds of pro-democracy activists have suffered harassment, intimidation and arbitrary arrest in recent weeks as the Cuban government employs new tactics to stamp out dissent.

Of 75 activists arrested in a crackdown around 18 March 2003, only three remain in jail after 50 releases since last June, with most of the freed activists currently exiled in Spain. Amnesty International has called for the remaining prisoners to be released immediately and unconditionally.

"The release of those detained in the 2003 crackdown is a hugely positive step but it tells only one side of the story facing Cuban human rights activists," said Gerardo Ducos, Cuba researcher at Amnesty International.

"Those living on the island are still being targeted for their work, especially through short-term detentions, while repressive laws give the Cuban authorities a free rein to punish anyone who criticises them."

"Meanwhile, three of the prisoners detained eight years ago still languish in prison and must be freed immediately."

In one recent crackdown the authorities detained over one hundred people in one day in a pre-emptive strike designed to stop activists marking the death of activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died following a prolonged hunger strike while in detention.

On 23 February, the one-year anniversary of Tamayo's death, according to the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation, the authorities placed over 50 people under house arrest before freeing them hours later.

Activist Nestor Rodri­guez Lobaina, was recently named a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International after being detained without trial for over three months.

The president of the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy was arrested after organizing an activists' meeting inside his own home.

"Cubans are still at the mercy of draconian laws that class activism as a crime and anyone who dares to criticise the authorities is at risk of detention," said Gerardo Ducos.

"In addition to releasing long-term prisoners of conscience, to properly realize freedom of expression the Cuban government also has to change its laws."

Seventy-five people were jailed in a massive crackdown against the dissident movement around 18 March 2003 for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Most of them were charged with crimes including acts against the independence of the state because they allegedly received funds and/or materials from US-based NGOs financed by the US government.

They were sentenced to between six and 28 years in prison after speedy and unfair trials for engaging in activities the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba.

These activities included publishing articles or giving interviews to US-funded media, communicating with international human rights organizations and having contact with entities or individuals viewed to be hostile to Cuba.

Stop Castro's Blackmail

From The Miami Herald's Editoral Board:

Cuba's cynical maneuver

OUR OPINION: No improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations until Alan Gross is free

The 15-year verdict handed down by a Cuban "court" against U.S. citizen Alan Gross is the deeply unjust result of events that bear no relationship to due process in an impartial legal system. Let's call this cynical maneuver what it really is — blackmail.

The 61-year-old Mr. Gross is not a criminal of any sort. He's a chess piece manipulated by the Cuban regime in the relentless war against its own people. The Castro brothers want to stop ordinary Cubans from obtaining the slightest bit of information from the outside world from any independent source. Punishing this envoy from a private U.S. company financed by a grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development is a convenient way to deter further efforts to circumvent Cuba's extensive system of communications surveillance.

Satellite phones are increasingly common instruments used to make calls around the world. But not in the Orwellian world run by Fidel and Raúl Castro and their paranoid minions. In Cuba, a satellite phone like the one Mr. Gross is accused of carrying for use by the island's tiny and impoverished Jewish community is deemed a dangerous weapon in an alleged "cyber war" being waged by the U.S. government to bolster a web of spies plotting to bring down the government.

In most any other country, a violation of customs regulations might result in a stiff fine and possible expulsion from the country. In Cuba, where the state controls all information outlets, violations that threaten the state's hegemony are seen as crimes that endanger the security of the state.

The real target of this mock-judicial charade is the "pro-democracy" funding from USAID designed to promote Cuba's budding civil society movement. People who can think for themselves, talk to each other and learn from each other without government intrusion represent a danger to the state's tyrannical masters, which practice various forms of mind control designed to snuff out any kind of independent action.

At a minimum, the punitive actions against Mr. Gross should throw a splash of cold water on what some call the warming in relations between Washington and Havana. He should be released unconditionally and immediately. As long as Alan Gross remains in jail, there can be no improvement in U.S.-Cuba relations.

President Obama came to office saying his administration would respond positively to an unclenched fist from previously hostile governments. We doubt that the mistreatment of Alan Gross by the Cuban government is what he had in mind as an appropriate response.

Oscar Elías Biscet, a longtime dissident, was released by the Cuban government last week after enduring years of suffering following an arrest in 2003 for the crime of speaking out against the government. His release is gratifying to his many admirers in and out of Cuba, but it doesn't change the fact that the physician should never have been imprisoned to begin with.

On Monday, the courageous Mr. Biscet called the Castro regime a "total dictatorship" that fears an informed citizenry. The actions against Alan Gross prove his point.

Raul to Personally "Fix" Statistics

On February 17th, we posted our concerns about a 6% decline in registered "legal entities" operating in Cuba between 2005-2011.

This statistic was based on data from Cuba's Office of National Statistics (ONS), which also showed that the only type of registered entities that actually grew during this period (by 20.7% to be exact) were those directly controlled and operated by the regime.

Thus we asked -- where's all the self-employment and supposed private economic activity that the media obsessively reports on?

Is it operating in "illegality" -- if operating at all?

Apparently, Raul Castro shared the same concern.

However, instead of legalizing private business activity or actual property rights for the Cuban people, Castro has simply decided to further centralize (and manipulate) "inconvenient" statistics.

So last week, the Castro regime officially announced (by overnight decree) the creation of a new statistics office, the System of Government Information, which will replace the ONS, and will be personally directed by "President" Raul Castro.

You simply can't make these absurdities up.

Here's the AP (in Spanish) story.

U.S. Rep. Sam (Way Too) Farr (Left)

We're non-partisan here at CHC, but some Members resort to extremes in their defense of dictatorships.

In this case, of the left -- others, of the right.

By Cliff Kincaid of Accuracy in Media:

Liberal Congressman Calls Cuba "Exciting" As American Hostage Rots in Cuban Jail

In an understatement, The Washington Post noted that the Gross case hasn't stopped the Obama administration from loosening travel restrictions to the island.

As Jewish American Alan Gross remains in a Cuban jail, held hostage by the Castro regime, Rep. Sam Farr (D-Calif.) gave a presentation on Sunday about how Cuba is "an exciting country" to visit and that all remaining restrictions on travel to Cuba should be lifted.

"Sharing a glimpse at his personal experiences in Cuba, Rep. Farr admitted that there is no more exciting place to visit on the American continent," noted the Havana Times.

Farr spoke at the Washington, D.C. Travel & Adventure Show, where new "people-to-people" tours of Communist Cuba were one of the featured attractions. He has been urging Obama to normalize relations with Cuba and to remove Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.

However, fugitives from justice in America continue to remain in Cuba, under the protection of the Castro brothers' regime. These include cop-killer Joanne Chesimard, Puerto Rican FALN bomb-maker William Morales, and Victor Manuel Gerena, a Puerto Rican terrorist involved in an armored car robbery. A WikiLeaks cable from a U.S. diplomat in Havana revealed that the regime continues to give sanctuary to members of various terrorist groups. "We have reliable reporting indicating the presence of ELN, FARC and ETA members here in Havana," the cable says. The National Liberation Army (ELN) and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are Colombia's main terrorist organizations, while the ETA is a terrorist separatist group operating in the Basque region of Spain.

President Obama lifted many restrictions on travel to Cuba, an initiative announced even though Alan Gross had been in prison in Cuba without charges for more than a year and has lost 90 pounds as his health deteriorates. Obama's pro-Castro policy move was greeted with official charges against Gross and now a sentence of 15 years. His "crime" was distributing laptops and cellular phones to Cuban citizens, mostly in the Jewish community, as part of a U.S. foreign aid project. The regime called it "a subversive project to try to topple the revolution."

In an understatement, The Washington Post noted that the Gross case hasn't stopped the Obama administration from loosening travel restrictions to the island. The Post story, "Maryland Contractor draws 15-year sentence in Cuba," was carried back on page 11. The paper refused to call Gross a hostage of the regime.

A flier available at one of the travel exhibits declared, "Thank the President for Purposeful Travel [to Cuba] and urge full and fast implementation." So-called "purposeful travel" is done under academic, religious, or educational cover and will result in financial subsidies for the Castro regime at a time when another WikiLeaks cable said it is near bankruptcy.

A glossy travel booklet, "Cuba with all the senses," proclaimed, "Cuba is history and harmony. It is natural beauty. There are so many reasons to visit its endless beaches, its historical towns and cities, its lush mountains and its charming valleys." It was produced by Sol Melia Cuba hotels.

Another group at the travel show promoting trips to Cuba was Global Exchange, founded by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. Her group also sponsors travel to Hugo Chavez's Venezuela, where the regime has imprisoned former presidential candidate Alejandro Peña-Esclusa. Like the case of Gross in Cuba, the Chavez government fabricated false accusations against him.

No Excuse for Lazy Journalism

Monday, March 14, 2011
In today's Wall Street Journal story on Alan Gross and USAID's Cuba program, reporter Nicholas Casey fell victim to lazy journalism.

Instead of researching the topic, Casey simply regurgitated (as fact) a common spin phrase of opponents of U.S. policy -- that USAID's Cuba programs are somehow "covert."

Yet, a simple Google search would have shown Casey that the details of these programs are just a click away on the Internet, as they are fully disclosed on USAID's website.

In other words, they are so "covert" that they are accessible to all free people (such as Casey) on the World Wide Web.

Tragically, Alan Gross is suffering in Castro's gulag for trying to extend that freedom to the Cuban people.

Stuck in Castro's Slum

Excerpts from a great interview in the Czech Position with famed Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez:

Q: What is lacking for a revolution similar to the one in Egypt taking place in Cuba?

A: In Cuba the situation is most like that in Libya rather than the other Arab countries that are undergoing unrest. Our system and country is also dependent on one charismatic and popular leader.

Q: But Raúl Castro is the complete opposite of his brother. Fidel got all of the charisma genes, leaving nothing for Raúl…

A: Of course that is why all Cubans that disagree with the regime secretly wish that "our beloved" El Commandante was not among us because Raúl would find it difficult to keep in charge. The older generation, despite not being satisfied with the regime, still respect Fidel for what he did when he took over. That is why they don't want to topple him, so as not to disappoint him. I'll give an example: Grandpa paid for our education; although he is now unintelligible and conservative, he is still our grandpa.

Q: A lot of people abroad feel that Cuba has probably the best possible system within Latin America and that its fall would lower the standard of living to that of Honduras or Ecuador.

A: I am sure that almost every Cuban would prefer to be at liberty to decide how to earn money, even if it was less, than to carry on living as a thrall to Castro's nobility.

Q: Isn't it better to be poor in Cuba than live in the favelas [slums] that are so ubiquitous in Latin America?

A: No, because there is always a chance of getting out of a slum. We don't have that. The former Brazilian president, Lula, came from the slums. So did several other South American leaders. Here it is more like a monarchy: Either you're part of Castro's family and their loyal lackeys or you don't have a chance. Moreover, Lula managed in just two terms to get 30 million people out of poverty. In 50 years, Castro's family hasn't managed to get the 11 million Cubans out of poverty at all. All he's managed to do is get rich while the rest of us flounder in destitution.

Our Thoughts and Prayers

Are with the people of Japan amidst their national tragedy.

The Hostage Crises Continue

By Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellow (and former U.S. Deputy National Security Adviser) Elliott Abrams:

Our Hostage Crises, continued

There is news today of both our hostage crises.

A Cuban "court" has sentenced USAID contractor Alan Gross to 15 years in prison for trying to help the tiny Cuban Jewish community connect via internet with Jewish communities around the world. Gross has been in a Cuban prison for 15 months, and has lost 90 pounds during that period. The State Department "deplored" the sentence.

But on March 8, "in this latest loosening of restrictions against Cuba," eight additional airports were opened to "charter" flights to Cuba. As the date of Gross's sentencing was known, it is astonishing that the Obama Administration would choose to help the Castro regime's tourist industry just as it makes this AID contractor a human sacrifice. There have been reports that Gross would soon be released on medical grounds, and one can only hope this is true. Perhaps there is even a secret deal with Cuba to this effect. But the expansion of tourism to Cuba in the very week that Alan Gross is sentenced to 15 years leaves a bitter taste.

Meanwhile in Iran, the hikers Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal - who have been in prison since July 2009 for the crime of crossing an unmarked border into Iran- have been told their next court hearing will come May 11. It will of course be a closed hearing; no nonsense about fairness is permitted in Iran's "judiciary."

The United States has no easy way to free the two young men, but their detention is a window into the nature of that despicable and repressive regime. Unfortunately it is also a window into our failed Iran policy, for it is the regime's response to the outreach offered by the Obama Administration. But what price has the regime paid? How has American policy toughened in the face of this hostage-taking?

What will we do if they are sentenced to 15 years in prison, or perhaps twice that? One can only hope the Administration is thinking now about that likely event, and will do more than "deplore" it if it occurs.

Quote of the Week

Sunday, March 13, 2011
"Obama's foreign policy trial by fire is the situation in Libya. If he responds with weakness, it could set a dangerous precedent. All the satraps are watching to see what will happen. If Gaddafi's massacre does not elicit a forceful response, Castro, Chavez and other dictators will be emboldened to do the same when their power is challenged."

-- Cuban pro-democracy leader Dr. Darsi Ferrer, on Facebook, March 10, 2011

A Glimpse of Cuba's Future

Please read the following article carefully.

It provides a glimpse of Cuba's future -- for it's not a matter of whether, it's a matter of when.

Note how three weeks ago it would have been "unthinkable" in Libya.

From the Financial Times:

Civil society on rise in rebel areas of Libya

Smirks and the odd expletive fill the room as a group of young men recall their education growing up under the eccentric and oppressive rule of Muammer Gaddafi.

"It was theory behind the theory behind the theory – it was stupid," says Ahmed ben Musa. "Even he [Gaddafi] didn't understand it."

Colonel Gaddafi's Green Book was a compulsory subject for study from primary school right through to the end of university.

First published in 1975,it outlines his "third universal theory" which he used to turn the oil-rich north African nation into a Jamahiriya, or "rule of the masses".

Libyan students lined upto repeat chants in praise of Col Gaddafi's system before class and again after lunch. As they studied the book's contents, they were taught to reject modern liberal democracy. Libya's unique system, they were told, was based on "direct democracy" in the form of popular committees.

The reality, however, was starkly different. There were neither political parties nor elections, while feared revolutionary committees controlled life in cities, towns and villages across the country. Dissent was quashed, civil society groups were rare and Col Gaddafi had an iron grasp on the country.

Yet now, in the opposition-controlled east of the country, things are changing. Committees have been formed to govern "liberated" cities. Some are even tentatively talking about establishing political parties for the first time in the hope that the regime will be ousted and Libya will begin making the huge leap to democracy.

Bassem Bubaker, a political science lecturer, is considering establishing a party with university professors and colleagues that would focus on "democracy and social development". "From the beginning of the revolution they are thinking and talking about it," he said.

These talks may still be in an embryonic stage, but just three weeks ago, merely the hint of criticism of the Jamahiriya system would have risked interrogation.