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realclearworld

Birds Of A Feather Meet In Havana

Elliot Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations:

Birds Of A Feather Meet In Havana
http://blogs.cfr.org/abrams/files/2012/06/lukashenko-617.462.jpg

Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko shakes hands with Cuban vice minister of foreign affairs Dagoberto Rodriguez at Havana's Jose Marti airport on June 24, 2012 (Enrique de la Osa/Courtesy Reuters).

It is not surprising that the worst regime in Europe and the worst regime in Latin America see much in common, so the visit to Cuba today by the president of Belarus has a certain logic to it.

In fact President Lukashenka is going on a Latin autocracy tour, following Cuba with Venezuela and then Ecuador. They can all share notes on how to suppress press freedom, silence dissidents, jail those who demonstrate against the regime, and crush civil society. Those who pretend they can see serious reforms in Cuba should be reminded by this visit of the true nature of the Castro regime. Lukashenka is their kind of guy.

Like Cuba over the decades, Belarus counts on Russian aid of various forms to stay afloat. Here is the description of the situation in Belarus by the British Foreign and Common wealth Office:

There was a continued decline in human rights and democracy in Belarus during 2011. The majority of the approximately 700 people detained for protesting on the night of the 19 December 2010 presidential election were released early in the year. However, 43 people, including five presidential candidates, were charged with organising or taking part in “mass riots”, and over 30 were sentenced to jail terms of between two and six years. Some detainees made credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Following international criticism and a request from Belarus for an IMF loan to help manage a growing economic crisis, all but eight political prisoners were released by September 2011. Credible reports suggest that those remaining in prison are under intense psychological and physical pressure. In the meantime, the regime continued to suppress all efforts to express dissent, breaking up silent protests, introducing legal amendments to reduce still further the right to freedom of assembly and association, and tightening the restrictions on civil society receiving assistance from abroad….The resumption of large-scale subsidies from Russia has taken some of the pressure off the regime to improve its performance with regard to basic standards of human rights and the rule of law.

The wretched regime in Cuba and the wretched regime in Belarus deserve our contempt, and the people of those countries deserve our continuing solidarity as they struggle for human rights and democracy.

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