Sunday, 19 September 2004
Another brutal wave of repression By Michael S. Rose

Castro's crackdown on independent journalists, librarians, turns human rights spotlight back onto Cuba.

(HAVANA, Cuba) – Earlier this year Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino of Havana released a long-awaited pastoral letter asserting the inalienable rights of the Cuban people. Little did he know at the time that he was writing on the eve of one of Fidel Castro’s most aggressive crackdowns in the 40-year history of the western hemisphere’s sole Communist regime. In March, Cuban state agents began arresting dozens of political dissidents, charging them with sedition—acting “against the independence and territorial integrity of the state.”

The political prisoners, made up primarily of independent journalists, librarians, and human rights activists, were handed stiff sentences after summary trials. The dissidents were accused of conspiring with U.S. diplomats and collaborating with the “enemy press.” In actuality, their offenses were three: promoting uncensored libraries, practicing independent journalism, and advocating political reform.

According to the state-run newspaper Granma, the long prison terms, ranging from 6 to 28 years, were meted out “in order to rein in political dissidents.” Most were charged under Cuba’s Law 88, which promises tough sentences for Cubans conspiring with a foreign power. Under the Soviet-style Cuban constitution of 1976, even the few legally recognized civil liberties can be denied to those who allegedly oppose the “decision of the Cuban people to build socialism.” As was the case with the recent roundup of political dissidents, due process is routinely denied to Cuban citizens.

Although Castro timed his crackdown on internal dissent to coincide with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, when the world’s attention would be focused elsewhere, the roundup did not pass unnoticed. On the contrary, it received unprecedented worldwide condemnation. The United States, the Vatican and even the European Union were swift to condemn the Castro regime’s actions, which also included the execution by firing squad of three men accused of “terrorism”—they hijacked a commercial ferry in an unsuccessful bid to get to Florida.

Jaime Suchlicki, director of the Institute of Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, sees the year 2003 as an historic one for Cuba. “The renewed repression in Cuba,” he told Catholic World Report, “is an indication that Castro wants his regime to continue after he’s gone. He wants to ensure that the revolution will remain Communist and anti-American. In order to consolidate power he has to eliminate the opposition.” Most Cuban experts agree that Fidel Castro, now 77, will eventually be succeeded by his younger brother and ideological twin Raúl.

Although Castro has periodically jailed opposition leaders, the new development is the aggressiveness with which the crackdown was carried out and the severity of the penalties imposed.

More significantly, perhaps, the recent actions of the Castro regime have shifted international public opinion about Cuba, bringing the European Union and the United States closer in their positions vis-à-vis Castro.

The Varela Project

Less than a month before the islandwide sweep, Havana’s Cardinal Ortega released his long-awaited pastoral letter in which emphasized the necessity of being able to exercise free will. The cardinal’s letter was published on the 150th anniversary of the death of Father Felix Varela, a human rights crusader who fought vigorously for Cuban independence from Spain in the 19th century before he was exiled to the U.S. His cause for canonization is currently open in Rome. If canonized, Fr. Varela would become the first Cuban saint.

Echoing Fr. Varela’s words, Cardinal Ortega wrote that “the capacity to exercise free will is what makes us truly human. If that freedom of choice cannot be expressed, human growth is stunted.” He pointed out that Cuba is “one of the Latin American countries that has suffered the most devastation through the destruction of institutions and the sweeping away of traditions.”

He particularly lamented the absence of Catholic schools in Cuba. In 1962 the fledgling Castro government seized more than 400 Catholic schools, closing them permanently. Castro charged that the schools spread dangerous beliefs among the people. To this day, the Catholic Church in Cuba remains hamstrung by government restrictions: The Castro regime prohibits the Church from operating its own press or news media, and from establishing any institutions such as schools, hospitals, or nursing homes. Nor is the Church in Cuba allowed to train an adequate number of priests.

During the 1960’s hundreds of Catholic priests were exiled, including Miami’s auxiliary bishop Augustín Román, an outspoken critic of the Castro regime and de facto spiritual leader for Miami’s Cuban exiles. Many of the priests who remained in Cuba, including Ortega, were put through state-run “re-education camps.” At present there but some 250 priests serving a population of 11 million on the island.

Cardinal Ortega’s invocation of Fr. Varela carried far more significance this year than it normally would have. At the time his letter was released, Cuba’s most renowned opposition activist Oswaldo Payá, head of Cuba’s independent Christian Liberation Movement, was traveling throughout Europe and the United States in order to garner international support for his Varela Project, also named after the 19th-century Cuban priest. Payá’s unprecedented initiative is a constitutionally permitted petition drive demanding a referendum on basic human rights, amnesty for political prisoners, free enterprise, and electoral reform—working through the island’s Communist framework.

Last year Payá presented more than 11,000 signatures to Cuba’s National Assembly, petitioning for a public referendum on the project’s principals. Although under the Cuban Constitution the National Assembly should have responded long ago to the petition by holding the referendum, Castro indirectly repudiated Payá’s efforts by organizing his own national referendum, approved last June, in which 8 million Cubans allegedly voted to make Cuba’s communist constitution “irrevocable.”

In the face of the Cuban government’s reaction to the petition and with pressure from some European nations, Payá was able to take his project on the road. During his worldwide tour earlier this year he met with prominent international leaders including Pope John Paul II, Secretary of State Colin Powell, and former Czech President Vaclav Havel, who has nominated Payá for this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. Payá, whose efforts at the very least have earned worldwide attention on the necessity of change in Cuba, has already been awarded the European Union’s prestigious Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought.

The project is not only named after Fr. Varela but was inspired by the priest reformer, who rather than advocating armed revolution, believed that freedom begins in the soul and that the best weapons of reform are spiritual ones. Payá explained to a Miami audience that “change can only be brought about by a civic movement of Cubans, acting peacefully. We don’t want coups, or armed confrontations, or interventions.”

Damian Fernandez, Professor of International Relations at Miami’s Florida International University, believes Payá’s Varela Project is a “watershed” for Cuba. “It has captured the imaginations of tens of thousands of people, both in Cuba and around the world,” he said. “It has presented a major dilemma for the Communist party.”

Just as importantly, he stressed, the petition drive has been a watershed for Cuban-American politics, which have tended toward volatile polemics. “The Varela Project represents a sea change of public opinion within the Cuban-American community,” he told CWR. Fernandez, author of Cuba and the Politics of Passion, now sees a greater tone of civility in public discussion of Cuban issues. In other words, Payá’s initiative has had a conciliatory affect in Miami, best understood by the greater appreciation of what has been accomplished by human rights workers inside Cuba. “The center of gravity for the reform movement has shifted from Miami to Cuba,” he added.

Although Oswaldo Payá and his Varela Project were received with overwhelming enthusiasm and support when he visited Miami earlier this year, there were some notably outspoken critics, mostly within the city’s Cuban exile community. Their objections are well-reasoned, and Payá himself was forced to admit to them that his project was far from perfect.

Opponents of the project criticize Payá primarily for wanting to work through the unjust structures of the Communist regime rather than confronting it. Human rights activist Laida Carro explained to CWR that “an instrument of repression,” such as Cuba’s communist constitution, “cannot be used to transform Cuban society towards a democracy.”

Carro heads the Coalition of Cuban-American Women, a Florida-based humanitarian group comprised of exiled Cuban women who have devoted themselves to the difficult task of collaborating with civil rights activists inside Cuba to document the many human rights violations, while working for democratic change.

The Coalition, she explained, “does not support any plan that considers reforms within the present Cuban one-party system and its constitution,” as in the case of Payá’s Varela Project. “We do respect those citizens who signed the [petition],” she added, “but feel they were not provided in-depth information on the consequences of the project.”

The Varela Project, for example, would allow elections to be supervised by the Castro regime. That, she believes, is problematic: “Elections must be supervised by internationally recognized entities and organizations.” She also objected to the project’s stipulation that Cuban exiles would have to live on the island for a year before qualifying to become a voting citizen.

Carro, who attended a private conference with Payá when he visited Miami earlier this year, said she saw “a very cautious individual with very carefully practiced answers. In my view, he never directly answered the questions posed, but went around them with a constant jargon.”

Critics such as Carro believe the Varela Project is not only doomed to failure, but leaves room for the Communist government and Castro to remain in power, in effect legitimizing the regime. In a joint statement issued by ten Miami-based exile groups, Payá’s efforts were dismissed as not viable.

Jaime Suchlicki, who considers himself a Payá supporter, agreed. “For the next few years,” he said, “the Varela Project is going to be dead in the water.”

Though the Varela Project seems to have accomplished little in the way of the type of reform it seeks to promote, the affects of the initiative have been felt keenly throughout the world in a different way. It is difficult to dismiss the fact that Payá’s project has spawned a renewed sense of awareness about Cuba’s dismal situation—its human rights abuses and its economic collapse in particular. Not only has this rattled Castro, as evidenced by the recent crackdown, it has inspired most of the world to reconsider its disposition toward the world’s longest ruling dictator.

Lack of Church support

Despite the overwhelming international support for his unprecedented initiative, Payá, a devout practicing Catholic, stated publicly in March that he expected to receive far more support for his initiative from the Church in Cuba than he has to date. While there is no doubt that Cardinal Ortega is a critic of the Castro government, the island’s highest ranking prelate has made his modus operandi clear: that in order to avoid political entanglements the Church in Cuba will not publicly support any opposition movement, including Payá’s Varela Project.

“The Church’s mission is not to be the opposition party that unfortunately does not exist in Cuba,” the Havana cardinal said during a talk on the future of Cuba. “The Church keeps alive,” he added, hinting that his passive strategy is a survival technique as much as anything.

“This is vintage Ortega,” said Damian Fernandez. “He is simply acting like the consummate politician he is.” Historically, he explained, Cardinal Ortega has maintained a detached neutrality toward the Castro regime, a neutrality that has earned him not a few critics, both in Cuba and in the U.S.

Although Fernandez is not one to minimize the constraints the Church is working under in Cuba, he faults the hierarchy for being timid and quiescent. “I think the Church’s timid position does not fare well in the context of present day Cuba. There is a context of crisis, but the Church continues to act as if there is no crisis.” For that reason, added Fernandez, the Church stands to be judged negatively after democratic transition eventually takes place. “There is going to be a turning away from the Church in Cuba,” he predicted, “if it does not take a bold stand now.”

Jaime Suchlicki defended Cardinal Ortega’s policy of detached neutrality. “The Catholic Church takes the long view,” he said. “The long view is that it has lost a significant base of support in Cuba. It is a small Church and [the hierarchy] does not want the Church to disappear from the island. They want to be there beyond Castro.” Suchlicki believes that if Cardinal Ortega were to support the opposition movement now, Castro would crush the Church.

Fernandez disagrees. He believes the Church is more likely to outlast Castro and the communist party if it takes a strong moral position against the Castro regime right now. Cardinal Ortega’s pastoral letter is “too little, too late,” he said. Ostensibly, Ortega’s quiescence has not paid off institutionally for the Church nor has it helped out the human rights community in Cuba. “His detached neutrality, and consequently the detached neutrality of the Cuban Church has already proved to be a failure. If the Church is not proactive, it is going to suffer even after change comes about in Cuba,” Fernandez predicts.

Archbishop Vaclav Maly of Prague, who lived under the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia most of his life, would seem to agree with Fernandez’s point of view. Earlier this year the archbishop publicly criticized Cardinal Ortega for failing to support the opposition movement in Cuba.

Judging from the Pope’s exhortations during his 1998 visit, it appears that John Paul II also takes the same view as Archbishop Maly and Damian Fernandez. In the presence of Fidel Castro, the Pope stated clearly that it was the Church’s duty to publicly denounce the “corruption of political power” and that Catholics have the duty and the right to participate in public debate on the basis of equality and in an attitude of dialogue and reconciliation.

The Pope’s historical trip to Cuba serves a case-in-point: Said to herald a new era for the Church on the island nation, Cardinal Ortega has had to admit that the Church’s situation has not improved in the five years since the Pope’s visit. Speaking to reporters at the opening of an art exhibit in Havana a month before the release of his pastoral letter, he said: “Relations with the Cuban government remain essentially the same…. The social-political space is always very limited and it appears the Church is often ignored.”

The Church in Cuba was hoping the papal visit would pave the way for a return of religious education in Cuba, some access to the media, or at the very least permission to hold public religious gatherings, such as devotional processions. Castro, however, has granted none of this. The only result of the Pope’s visit was that Christmas was reinstated as a national holiday.

“Castro continued with the status quo,” Fernandez observed. “There’s a major flaw in the cardinal’s argument,” he said of Ortega’s timid quiescence and refusal to operate with a much more emboldened stance. “The Church needs to assert its moral authority.”

Escalating tensions

Shortly after Payá’s return to Cuba, Castro lashed out with his aggressive crackdown against opposition leaders, including several leading members of Payá’s own group. After the mass arrests, the Varela Project leader accused Castro of undertaking a new campaign of repression in order to thwart efforts for peaceful political change. “The arrests are aimed at destroying the Varela Project,” he publicly charged. He observed that half of those arrested are coordinators of the project in the various Cuban provinces.

In an interview with the New York Times, Payá vowed that his Varela Project would not be crushed: “There had been a flowering in Cuba of a peaceful movement for rights and reconciliation, to defeat this culture of fear. Cuba’s spring is the Varela Project.”

The Castro regime charged the dissidents with conspiring with U.S. diplomats in Havana in order to subvert the Cuban government. Many of those arrested in March worked as independent journalists, who operate outside of the state-run media outlets in order to provide accounts of political prisoners and dissidents, while also reporting on the hardships and frustrations of daily life in communist Cuba. Independent journalism is outlawed by article 53 of the Cuban constitution. The arrested journalists principally publish their articles on Miami-based news websites like Cubanet and Nueva Presna Cubana. Since most have no access to the internet, they typically file their stories by fax or phone dictation. Some, such as Raúl Rivero Castañeda, the most renowned independent journalist to be imprisoned, have had their articles published in venues such as The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Washington Post.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, based in New York, Cuba is the only country in the western hemisphere where journalists are currently imprisoned for offenses relating to their reporting. The committee also lists Cuba as one of the world’s ten worst countries for journalists.

Also among the recently condemned dissidents, ten are members of Cuba’s independent library movement, which is dedicated to circulating materials that are forbidden by the Castro regime. In the course of the crackdown 22 independent libraries were raided and their collections seized, along with the circulation records containing the names of those who borrow books from the outlawed libraries. The ten librarians were also convicted of conspiring with U.S. diplomats to undermine the Cuban government, and sentenced to a total of 196 years in prison.

The months of tension on the island this year have ultimately resulted in a disaster for Cuban international relations, not the least with the United States.

“With its recent crackdown against human rights activists and the country’s nascent civil society,” said James Cason, the chief diplomatic officer in Havana, “the Castro regime has shown that it is willing to risk even the ire of the international community to maintain its central role.”

In an address to the Cuban Transition Project in Miami just weeks after the crackdown, Cason clarified the services that U.S. diplomats provide for independent journalists in Cuba: material support in the form of radios and books that are unavailable in Cuba, Internet access, and a news clipping service.

“The government of Cuba,” he said, “refers to all of these activities as ‘subversion of the established order,’ and expects the international community to believe that.” He also aptly pointed out that Cuban diplomats in the U.S. have enjoyed a level of access to U.S. citizens that the Cuban government would never accept on the part of U.S. diplomats in Cuba.

Washington, which has always taken a hard-line against Cuba, has been considering new ways to tighten the four decade economic embargo against the totalitarian regime. One proposal was to end U.S. family remittances to Cuba. Remittances from Cuban Americans play a large role in the Cuban economy, accounting for between $800 million and $1 billion per year to an $18.6 billion economy. The remittances come from families in the United States that are permitted by U.S. law to send up to $1,200 each year.

“Sensible opinions from inside Cuba and Cuban-Americans have been heard and remittances have not been cut so far,” said Carmelo Mesa-Lago, a professor of economics and Latin American studies at the University of Pittsburgh. “Such an action would play in favor of Castro, harm the Cuban people, and reverse the good will that the USA has created inside of Cuba through the remittances and [family] visitations.”

Payá’s travels, coupled with Castro’s renewed wave of repression, have also re-ignited the debate about current U.S. sanctions against the Communist nation.

Some observers believe that Payá was allowed unprecedented freedom of travel precisely because he is an outspoken critic of the economic and travel embargo against Cuba. “Cuba lets people like Payá travel,” commented Jaime Suchlicki, “in order to show that there is some liberalism is Cuba. It is supposed to show that the Castro regime is not totalitarian. But in fact, only those criticizing the United States are allowed such freedom to travel.”

Payá has been unequivocal in his opposition to the U.S. economic embargo against Cuba, saying that it is not an “instrument of change.” But neither does he believe, as others argue, that foreign investment and American tourism will bring a democratic transition to the island. He believes that change can only come from within, from a homegrown movement.

Suchlicki supports the embargo, and agrees with Washington that the sanctions should remain in place as a tool to negotiate with the future government. Some critics of the American embargo blame the U.S. government for Cuba’s economic woes, arguing that the average Cuban suffers while Castro remains undaunted.

Suchlicki disagrees. “What affects the average Cuban,” he said, “is the Communist system, not the embargo. Cuba buys whatever it wants.” He explained that the Castro government even buys American products, everything from Coca-Cola to computers. It does so through vicarious trading companies set up in places like Switzerland and Panama.

The real embargo, he added, is that the Cuban government refuses to open up economically to allow the Cuban people to use their own initiative. “The Cubans are ingenious; they are entrepreneurial.”

Statistics bear out Suchlicki’s assertion. During the 1950’s before the Communist revolution, Cuba ranked third in per capita income in Latin America. Today, after more than 85 billion dollars in economic and military aid from China and from the former Soviet Union, Cuba’s per capita income is one of the lowest in the Western hemisphere. At the same time, the Cuban exile community in Florida boasts a per capita income higher than the entire island of Cuba.

“Once penniless exiles,” Laida Carro, herself a Cuban exile, pointed out, “have turned into successful productive individuals such as U.S. congressmen and congresswomen, presidents of prominent corporations and educational institutions, movies stars, singers, and musicians.” Two well-known examples of such are singer Gloria Estefan and Andy Garcia. This year, in fact, Cuban exile Nilo Cruz won the Pulitzer Prize for playwrighting.

Economist Mesa-Lago opposes the U.S. embargo against Cuba for very different reasons. Since 1968 he has criticized the sanctions because they have been used by Castro to justify his disastrous economic policies. Echoing Suchlicki’s position, he said, “the main problem of the economy is not the embargo but [Cuba’s] incapacity to generate sufficient and diversified exports to buy the needed imports.”

Cuba can trade with the rest of the world, including Canada, the European Union, and Japan, he explained, but Cuba simply does not have the goods to sell those countries. “The lifting of the embargo won’t solve [Cuba’s economic] problems but [will] remove the excuse that the Cuban government has used all these years.”

Laida Carro’s Coalition of Cuban-American Women supports the U.S. sanctions as “one of the many ways necessary to apply pressure to a ruthless regime, preventing it from obtaining access to bank credits and cash that would be used to continue in power and further repress its people.”

Fidel Castro has been trading with the rest of the world for years, Carro added, and that has resulted in neither an improvement in the economic plight of the nation or in a lessening of “the brutal repressive nature” of the Castro regime.

It is instructive to note that some prominent political prisoners in Cuba have been outspoken in favor of the United States’ stiff sanctions. Juan Carlos González Leiva is a blind lawyer and human rights activist who has been unjustly imprisoned without trial since March 4, 2002 for his pro-democracy activism. Last year, from prison, he sent a public message pleading that “the embargo not be lifted, as it would mean oxygen for a criminal tyranny and the continuation of the misery of the people.”

Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet, a prominent activist arrested again in Castro’s recent crackdown, reiterated his support of sanctions against the Cuban government. In a press conference via telephone from Cuba on November 4, 2002 after he had just finished serving a three-year sentence, he said, “I believe if the entire world were to carry out sanctions [against Cuba] as was done with South Africa, Cuba would have been free a long time ago. To give money to Castro is to subsidize his agents, Cuban State Security and the political police, enabling them to beat us up and mistreat us. I will not modify these ideas which I have always believed in and supported.”

“La Pandillita”

In addition to strong condemnatory statements issued by the United States, the Vatican also sent a strong rebuke to Cuba accusing Castro of merely “filling the Gulag with bodies.”

In a message sent directly to Castro by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Holy See denounced the summary trials of the dissidents as well as the executions of the ferryboat hijackers. The cardinal also reported that Pope John Paul II was “profoundly afflicted to learn about the heavy penalties recently inflicted on many Cuban citizens” and begged Castro to show clemency toward the political prisoners. In February 1998, at the request of the Pope, following his historic visit to the island, Castro released nearly 300 such prisoners.

Speaking to reporters in Rome on April 30, Sodano said the Vatican still held out hope for Cuban reforms, despite glaring evidence to the contrary: “We continue to have a lively hope—the Pope and myself—that Fidel Castro will lead his people toward democracy, respecting the progress that has been made in recent decades.”

Joining the U.S. and the Vatican’s condemnation of Cuba’s recent actions was, predictably, Spain and Italy, the latter of which has decided to push for a European Union embargo of the Communist nation.

But the verbal attack on Cuba reached beyond Cuba’s usual opponents. The crackdown has disabused countries that previously thought the Castro regime was easing its hard-line attitudes toward political opponents. The European Union, which has historically been much more lenient with Cuba than has the United States, condemned both the hijacker executions and the arrest and convictions of the political dissidents. The E.U. demanded that that all prisoners of conscience in Cuba be released immediately. That represents a marked change of attitude. Just a few months before, the E.U. opened an office in Havana and was considering including the country in preferential trade agreements.

Europe’s criticism has clearly rattled Castro. In fact, the beleaguered dictator calls his new enemy “La Pandillita,” roughly, the cabal of conspirators. La Pandillita is the European Union, and according to Castro, Spanish President José María Aznar is the leader of this cabal, which he says has become a puppet for the Bush administration.

“El Commandante has it wrong,” said author Carlos Alberto Montaner, a Cuban author now living in Spain. “Europe, in effect, has changed its analysis of the Cuban situation, but not through influence of the White House, but rather through the evidence that Fidel Castro is an incorrigible tyrant who has rejected every gesture of good will from the old continent.”

Furthermore, Jaime Suchlicki pointed out, “Cuba owes a lot of money to the Europeans, and it is becoming clear to them that Castro can’t pay up.”

European government officials aren’t the only unlikely sources to have condemned Castro’s recent aggression. Some of his most ardent supporters, including leftist intellectuals, have also turned against him. Portuguese author José Saramago, considered to be one of Castro’s closest communist allies amongst the European intelligentsia, broke all ties with Cuba’s dictator after the execution of the ferryboat hijackers in April. In an editorial published in Spain’s El País, the Nobel Prize-winning writer wrote: “This is as far as I go… Cuba has won no heroic victory by executing these three men, but it has lost my confidence, damaged my hopes, robbed me of illusions.”

Writing in Bogatá’s El Tiempo, another of Castro’s most loyal friends, Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez, also expressed his misgivings but in rather tepid language, writing that he opposes the death penalty “in any place, for any motive or circumstance.”

An undeserved re-election

Cuba is one of six countries that remain on a U.S. State Department list of nations that sponsor terrorism. (The other countries are Iran, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Sudan.) A recent State Department report accused Cuba of sending agents to U.S. missions around the world to provide “false leads designed to subvert the post-Sept. 11 investigation.”

According to Suchlicki, “Cuba has been involved with terrorist groups in the Middle East since 1960, including helping to found the Palestine Liberation Organization.” Cuba has also been implicated in aiding terrorist organizations in Colombia, such as FARC and the ELN, as well as harboring terrorists and U.S. fugitives, including 20 Basque separatists from Spain.

Despite Castro’s massive crackdown on political dissidents and the ensuing worldwide criticism, Cuba was re-elected this year to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. White House spokesman Ari Fleisher immediately condemned the reelection. “Having Cuba serve on the Human Rights Commission is like putting Al Capone in charge of bank security,” he said. “Cuba does not deserve a seat on the Human Rights Commission. Cuba deserves to be investigated by the Human Rights Commission.”

Even after Cuba rejected a request by the 53-member group to accept a visit from an official human rights monitor, no Latin American nation objected to Cuba’s nomination for the seat. The Castro government immediately trumpeted the reelection as a sign that Cuba still enjoys the support of the majority of countries despite U.S. pressure. “The recent condemning ploys in Geneva, orchestrated by the United States…couldn’t derail this [nomination],” a news release broadcast on state-run Radio Havana Cuba said.

Despite the U.N.’s latest folly, the fact remains, said Laida Carro, that “Cuban exiles are victims of a brutal totalitarian regime, whose citizens face few options but to remain in Cuba and become slaves to the totalitarian state, or dissent and become political prisoners.”

This is the well-known pattern that has followed in all countries where Communism has taken over as a measure to control power. Cuba is no exception. The bottom line is that the Cuban people are not able to exercise their God-given right to free-will. Castro’s recent crackdown has given the world more evidence of this fact.

“The Cuban people have never stopped struggling to be free from Communist rule since 1959,” said Carro. “The thousands of victims speak for themselves: drowned, shot by firing squad, and casualties who died in prison or due to other repressive tactics.”

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In March, Cuban state agents began arresting dozens of political dissidents, charging them with sedition.

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