Friday, April 04, 2003

Guess who's joining the American right in their ceaseless excoriation of Castro's Cuba? It's the French!

That's an editorial in Le Monde, which reads, fairly roughly, as follows:

Following the attacks of September 11th in the US, a political commentator expressed fear that they'd produce nasty side effects -- in other words that the war on terrorism might be seized on as a pretext by numerous dictators to liquidate their opposition. As the Chinese did in stepping up the repression against the Uighur Muslims of Xinjiang; as the Russians did to martyr a few more of the Chechens; and by others as well, all too happy to profit from the situation by killing, imprisoning and torturing, all in the name of the sacrosanct war against terrorism.

It would have been astounding if Fidel Castro didn't join the crowd. And he has, in his own way. The Cuban dictator chose his own occasion; he waited for the war against Iraq to start before trying to decimate his own opposition. With the mixture of cynicism and brutality which characterises the Havana regime, Castro is counting on silence from the international press, preoccupied with events between the Tigris and Euphrates; he hopes to play on the passivity of western governments working to heal the rifts among them provoked by the Americo-Britannic military operations.

Just as operations commenced in the war against Iraq, the Cuban police kicked off one of the harshest repressive operations ever seen on the island in at least ten years. In two weeks, they arrested 78 dissidents. Their trials started April 3. It's being done in authentic "Moscow show trial" style: no lawyers allowed to examine dossiers before the proceeding; neither journalists nor diplomats present in the courtroom; indictments carrying prison terms which could go for life. Against who?

Against women and men whose sole misdeed is to try, within the framework of the law, to get some respect for at least basic liberty. Fidel Castro wants to wipe out the militants of Project Varela, a campaign launched last year to get democratic changes by constitutional means. The admirable Marta Beatriz Roque, economist, emblematic figure of resistance to the regime, is thus threatened with a life sentence; the poet Raul Rivero risks 20 years of prison; 23 independant journalists have been arrested, and likewise about 50 defenders of human rights. All chased down for improper opinions, for political dissidence, for having the courage to oppose the Castro regime.

Who will line up from them in the great cities of the west? The organization "Reporters without borders" has taken up their defense. A petition, signed by great European intellectuals, calls for their immediate release. Castro knows that the beginning of openness would be the beginning of the end for his dictatorship. So he has to choke off the very breath of liberty. He is counting on a diversion of attention because of the war in Iraq. On this point, at least, he must be proven wrong. So, we must talk about Cuba.

For what it's worth, this is one matter on which even Dubya's diplomatic corps finds itself, as if by accident, fighting the good fight...


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