By Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet in The Washington Examiner:
Only Cubans can make Cuba free
In recent months, the United States has taken steps to recognize the regime of Raul Castro as the legitimate government of Cuba. These steps evince a lack of knowledge of the totalitarian nature of the regime.
Many Americans do not know the extent of the human rights violations committed by the Castro dictatorship. The Castros' victims do not number in the millions like those of Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin. But their despotic essence is the same.
I can attest that those who work for human rights and democracy in Cuba still receive cruel and inhumane treatment, including torture. Despite the fact that the U.S. removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, the regime continues to terrorize its people, and to harbor terrorists from other countries, including the U.S.
I know that government agents spy on me and my family, as well as many other human rights supporters on the island. Here we live with few freedoms. There is no free press, no privacy, no freedom of association. We live within a system that stifles human dignity.
Let me briefly tell you my story. I am 53 years old. As a young man, I was studious and hard-working. I never had problems with the law. I was working as a physician in Havana when I investigated and exposed Cuban abortion techniques in which babies were being killed after being delivered alive. For the crime of "disrespect," I was sent to prison.
Later, in 1999, after hanging a Cuban flag upside down in protest, I was given a three-year sentence for the crime of "disrespecting patriotic symbols." Fidel Castro publicly gave the order to lock me up, telling a television audience that I was insane and needed treatment. The treatment was jail and torture, including many weeks in punishment cells and solitary confinement.
Upon my release, I began publicly advocating for human rights and democracy, which led to more time in prison. In 2002, I was sentenced to 25 years in prison during Cuba's notorious "Black Spring," in which 90 journalists and human rights advocates were imprisoned.
I was released in 2011, along with more than 50 other political dissidents in an agreement negotiated with the Catholic Church in Cuba. Most of the other prisoners were forcibly exiled from the country, but I refused to leave. I live here in Havana with my dear wife, Elsa, who, along with my children, has borne the brunt of my poor treatment and absence.
I am grateful to the God of the Bible for giving me strength and wisdom during my most difficult moments, including when I was tortured in prison and became very sick. I am also grateful to all the Cubans and people around the world who stand in solidarity with me and with all Cubans who seek freedom.
As a promoter of freedom for Cuba, I believe America's policy of rapprochement with Castro's communist dictatorship will only give the regime credibility and prolong its existence. The result, I believe, will be increased suffering for my compatriots.
It is impossible to empower the individual within a totalitarian dictatorship. History reveals as much in the examples of communist China and Vietnam. We see that in those countries, economic liberalization has not led to more political rights or freedoms for citizens.
Long before the U.S. began thinking about a new approach toward Cuba, I launched the Emilia Project. Emilia is the name of the first Cuban woman banished from the country for political reasons. The project involves using nonviolent resistance to secure basic human rights, democracy and freedom for the people of Cuba.
I know that Americans want the best for Cuba, and there is a role for America to play in helping Cubans secure their freedom. But some of the recent policy changes will only make it more difficult for Cubans to bring about the future they deserve. Ultimately, of course, it is the Cuban people who must claim our liberty and establish our democracy. Only then will Cuba be free.
Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet is a physician and human rights advocate living in Havana. He is president of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. While in prison in 2007, he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
at 10:20 AM Friday, June 5, 2015
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