Thursday, September 16, 2004

Cuba Libre

Much attention yesterday regarding former Prime Minister José Maria Aznar was diverted to the decision by the parliamentary committee investigating the March 11 attacks in Madrid to have Aznar testify.

Meanwhile, Aznar was giving a speech on human rights and Cuba. The transcript is in Spanish, I've taken out some passages I found interesting, and translated them.

...On Cuba's political prisoners:
Today we are meeting to demand of the Cuban government that they release their prisoners of conscience.

There are at least 84 political prisoners on the island, according to human rights organizations. Perhaps the low number comes as a surprise to some of you. Without a doubt there are many more, but in any case it's the highest number in the world, relative to its population.

Just one political prisoner should already be intolerable. No one should be imprisoned for peacefully expressing his ideas. No one should be sentenced without a fair and impartial trial.

...On Raúl Rivero, political prisoner:
Raúl Rivero, poet and journalist was one of the signers of the letter sent by various Cuban intellectuals to their government in 1991. In it, they asked for democratic reforms. To sign it, meant breaking the official silence in his country. A country where what is not official, is clandestine.

In 1995 he founded the press agency CubaPress, to give the world an indepent version of what was happening in his country.

That decision also had its consequences. He was detained on several occasions, on top of being subjected to other restrictive measures.

On March 20, 2003, he was detained again, together with 74 other people. Just 17 days later he was convicted to 20 years in prison, on counts of "treason of the country". Today he is being held in a high security prison, under inadmissible conditions and contrary to all international treaties. His wife Blanca Reyes bravely and permanently keeps the thought of her husband with her.

Without a doubt the voice of Raúl Rivero was bothering the Cuban government. Without a doubt also, he is in prison for speaking publicly in favor of democracy and freedoms in his country. He is living proof that he was right in asking of his country, that what is normal in so many others. Amongst them, ours.

...On Europe vis a vis Cuba, refering to the fall of the Berlin Wall:
Unfortunately, not all similar tyrannies fell. Some continue still, oppressing millions of people. And they continue to do so with the consent up to the applauding of people living in democratic and open societies, who would be incapable of tolerating a dictatorship in their own countries.

I would ask them to be consistent. That they defend for Cuba the same they defend for Europe. That they denounce any violation of fundamental right with the same emphasis, wherever it happens.

Freedom of mind is a universal value. It cannot be confined solely to some countries, instead it must be defended all over the world. Calls for respect of cultural traditions do not apply. No one can justify the execution or the imprisonment of those who express their ideas or those who criticize their government.

Without a doubt it is easier to criticize democratic governments. It involves less risk. Denouncing totalitarian governments can carry a high price. But still there are those who prefer to risk their liberty and their lives to do so.
His speech was given at the presentation of the manifesto "For the freedom of prisoners of conscience in Cuba". Both the speech and the manifesto can be found in Word .doc format on the FAES website, where you can also sign the manifest, unfortunately not online, but through emailing your personal details. Hopefully they can figure out a way to make it easier for people to sign. It's also in Spanish.

Last year, the European Union imposed 'diplomatic' sanctions on Cuba, as a direct result of the arrest of the 75 political activists of which Aznar spoke (although curiously, the EU's condemnation focused more on the execution of three Cubans fleeing Castro's island prison, think about that one for a minute). Sanctions that socialist Foreign Minister-and-Arafat's-buddy Miguel Angel Moratinos now wants to lift (link in Spanish), in order to 'improve' relations with Cuba.

A bit like Zapatero's call to all countries with troops in Iraq to follow Spain's lead, to 'improve Iraq's prospects'. For whom?

As a side note, did you know that Cuba's ambassador to Spain is the revered (revered!) author and niece of Chili's Salvador Allende, Isabel Allende?

To close with a more positive note, and to show everyone that not all Europeans (and lest you forget, half of Spain is bitterly opposed to these Socialist morons in government as well), take a look at the Czechs, who have one of the most anti-Castro policies in Europe:
The United States government has competition when it comes to exporting democracy.

Those not familiar with the special ties between the newly freed and the still-oppressed might be surprised to learn that the Czech Republic is the European nation most devoted to the liberation of Cuba, the only dictatorship left in Latin America.

"'So why Cuba?' That is the question we are always asked. The answer is Vaclav Havel," said Gabriela Dlouha, head of the newly created Transition Promotion unit at the Foreign Ministry. Dlouha's office aids democracy movements in Cuba, Belarus and Myanmar (formerly Burma) and also works with the governments of countries such as Ukraine and Moldova that are still struggling to implement democracy.

"After the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, Vaclav Havel was an icon. The people in opposition in Cuba asked him to be their advocate. They asked him to ask other countries to support them. And that is still our moral obligation," said Dlouha, a former press officer for Havel, who served as president of Czechoslovakia and the Czech Republic from 1990 to 2003.
Read it all, it shows there is hope for Cuba, and Europe, still.