Sunday, May 18, 2008

Cuba Solidarity Day Reminds World of Cuba's Political Prisoners

By Eric Green, NewsBlaze

Political prisoners held in prison by the Cuban regime of Ra�l Castro will be remembered as the world community commemorates the first-ever Cuba Solidarity Day May 21. Several Cuba experts shared their views on the importance of this event with
Former U.S. State Department official Lino Guti�rrez says Cuba Solidarity Day was organized in reaction to the "so-called reforms" by the Castro regime "that the international press has so loudly exalted."

Now a senior adviser to U.S. Commerce Secretary Carlos Guti�rrez (no relation) who helped conceive the idea for such a commemoration, Lino Guti�rrez said Cuba Solidarity Day aims to "remind the world that while much is being made" of the Castro regime's "allowing Cubans to purchase cell phones, rice cookers and toaster ovens [in 2010], hundreds of Cubans still languish in Castro's jails, often under dire and subhuman conditions." The U.S.-based nonpartisan group Freedom House reports that Cuba has more than 300 "prisoners of conscience," most held in cells with common criminals and many convicted on "vague charges" such as "disseminating enemy propaganda" or "dangerousness."

Guti�rrez said that on May 21, "a spotlight will be shined on Cuba and its political prisoners. On this day, our message to the prisoners will be that they are not alone, that their plight is not forgotten and that free men and women everywhere will continue to fight until they are freed."
A native of Cuba, Guti�rrez quoted the late U.S. civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. as saying that "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Guti�rrez said the civilized world demands "the immediate freedom of Cuba's political prisoners."

Cuba Independence Day May 20

The May 21 commemoration comes the day after the anniversary of Cuba achieving its independence in 1902. President Bush has said that the "longing for justice, freedom, and human rights is a desire that can be delayed but never denied," and that the United States stands "united with freedom-loving people of all nations in the conviction that Cuba's future must be one of dignity, liberty, and opportunity." Cuba gained its independence on May 20, 1902, after being administered for four years by the United States following the defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Spain withdrew from Cuba in that year after several centuries of colonial rule in the country. The Castro regime recognizes January 1 as Cuba's day of independence, citing the date when rebel forces of Fidel Castro seized control of the country in 1959 from the regime of Fulgencio Batista.

Frank Calzon, executive director of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba, said that "now we expect after almost 50 years of communist dictatorship that the abusive nature of the Castro" regime "will also leave Cuba and we hope that will be soon." Calzon said "international solidarity" is a crucial element in "bringing about the downfall of dictatorships." He cited such global unity for helping to end communism in Poland, the military rule of Augusto Pinochet in Chile and the fall of the apartheid regime in South Africa. As when Eastern Europe was under communism, "millions of Cubans are dissidents in the sense that they dissent from a regime that has been in power ... on the basis of fear and repression," said Calzon. Every day the dissident community in Cuba grows "bigger and stronger," he said.

World Solidarity With Cuban Opposition

Jaime Suchlicki, director of the University of Miami's Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, says the May 21 commemoration is "not going to have any effect" on the Cuban regime, such as making Ra�l Castro "budge" on his repressive policies, or open his regime to meaningful reform. But Suchlicki said the many events planned around the world for Solidarity Day will show Cubans opposed to the Castro regime that they are "not alone, that there is support internationally for them." He compared the situation in Cuba to dissidents who lived in Communist regimes in Eastern Europe. Dissidents said after communism fell in that region that international support kept alive the desire for freedom for people living behind the "Iron Curtain," said Suchlicki.

The term solidarity has special resonance in former Soviet-bloc nations such as Poland, where the independent Solidarity trade union led by Lech Walesa helped end communism in that Eastern European nation. Raj Desai, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, agreed with the contention that Solidarity Day will not have much effect on the Castro regime. But dissidents in Cuba and other repressive countries welcome statements that support their cause, he said, especially those from government leaders. Desai, also a professor at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, cited the example of former President Ronald Reagan who called on the Soviet Union to allow for human rights. Dissidents living under Soviet communism, said Desai, "very much appreciated" Reagan's statements.

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