Oppression in Cuba
What is it with Cuba, anyway?
There's a soft spot in my revolutionary heart for Cuba and it's struggles, I really wish them the best and, truth be told, it pleases me that Castro has thumbed his nose at about 9 successive U.S. Presidents, but then this kind of shit goes down.
What the hell? What can be done? (And no, I DON'T think the US should invade, although I wouldn't be surprised if Bush & Co are considering it).
Cuba Jails Dissidents Despite World Criticism
Tue April 8, 2003 07:27 PM ET
By Anthony Boadle
HAVANA (Reuters) - Communist-run Cuba, undeterred by an outpouring of criticism from foreign governments and international human rights groups, handed down another stiff sentence on Tuesday to one of the dozens of dissidents arrested in recent weeks.
Luis Enrique Ferrer, a local coordinator in the city of Las Tunas for the democratic reform campaign called the Varela Project, was sentenced to 28 years in prison, the heaviest possible sentence, dissident sources said.
Most of the 78 dissidents arrested since March 18 in the worst repression of President Fidel Castro's opponents in decades have received sentences in non-public trials ranging from 12 to 28 years in prison.
With no public information on the trials, the Cuban Human Rights Commission struggled to compile a list of sentences handed down so far by courts in 13 cities across Cuba.
At least 71 have been sentenced. The most prominent still awaiting sentencing is civil disobedience activist and dissident physician Oscar Elias Biscet, who had been arrested in December just months after serving a three-year prison term. He was tried on Monday and will be sentenced on Thursday, said his wife, Elsa Morejon.
Most of the dissidents were convicted of treason for collaborating with Cuba's longtime ideological foe, the United States, where the Bush administration has stepped up support for the small but growing opposition movement on the island.
Rights groups said the draconian sentences by improvised courts, where undercover agents that infiltrated the dissident groups were produced as witnesses, was a throwback to Stalinism.
The Swedish government condemned the jailings on Tuesday and said they jeopardized Cuba's chances of entering the Cotonou preferential trade and aid agreement between the European Union and 78 mostly former European colonies.
"The mass arrests of dissidents that have taken place lately are one more example of the human rights violations being committed in Cuba," Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said.
"The absence of respect for human rights in Cuba will continue to affect the country's relations with Sweden and the prospects of increased cooperation between the EU and Cuba," she added in a statement.
The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed a nonbinding resolution condemning the crackdown on dissidents and calling on international organizations to follow suit.
The resolution, which passed 414-0, called for the "immediate release of all Cuban political prisoners." It also urged the Bush administration to press for a resolution at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights with the "strongest possible condemnation" of the current crackdown.
Amnesty International said the jailings were "appalling" and "a giant step backwards for human rights" in Cuba.
"These people, who Amnesty International fears may have been arrested for nothing more than the peaceful exercise of fundamental freedoms, have been sentenced after manifestly unfair trials conducted in haste and secrecy," the London-based group said in a statement.
Cuba's best known dissident poet, writer and journalist, Raul Rivero, 57, and economists Martha Beatriz Roque -- the only woman put on trial -- and Oscar Espinosa Chepe got 20 year sentences on Monday.
The toughest sentences were for independent journalists and organizers of the Varela Project, a petition for reforms to Cuba's one-party socialist state that gathered more than 11,000 signatures last year.
The initiative's leader Oswaldo Paya, who won the European Union's top human rights award, the Sakharov Prize, in December, was not arrested, but his organization, the first nationwide opposition network, was dismembered in the round up.
Among the 28 journalists put on trial, photographer Omar Rodriguez Saludes was given 27 years in prison.
The International Press Institute, the global network of editors, media executives and journalists based in Vienna, condemned the trials in a letter to Castro.
"IPI strongly condemns this latest move against Cuba's dissidents, apparently meant to silence once and for all the critical voice of the regime's opponents while world attention is focused on the war in Iraq," IPI director Johann Fritz wrote.
International P.E.N., the world association of writers based in London, also sent a protest letter to Castro demanding the release of "valiant poet" Raul Rivera and other jailed writers.
Canada, the largest foreign investor in Cuba, protested the jailings on Monday when Foreign Minister Bill Graham summoned the Cuban ambassador in Ottawa and told him the Canadian government was "deeply disturbed by the severity of the sentences."