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Reality in Cuba: Freedom, democracy aren’t close

Guillermo Martinez in the Sun-Sentinel:

Reality in Cuba: Freedom, democracy aren't close about Cuba came at us at a fast and furious pace last week.

Dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez made news three times. The first was when she said five Cuban spies in the United States should be released so the government could use the millions it spends in a campaign to free them toward helping provide a better life for people in the island.

When the uproar over her statement erupted, Sánchez quickly backpedaled and apologized to those who might be offended, particularly the relatives of those four Brothers to the Rescue members shot down in the Florida Straits. An American court convicted the five Cubans of spying and providing the information that led Fidel Castro to order his MiG jet fighters to shoot down two small, unarmed planes.

Sánchez explained her comments were ironic, not to be taken literally. Two colleagues who have close contact with Cuba told me as much. They said she was speaking to Cubans in the context of life under the brothers Castro. Still, I did not see it. You don't use irony on subjects where four innocent victims were killed.

The most prominent of Cuban dissident bloggers also repeated her view that the U.S. embargo of the island should be lifted. I disagree with her opinion, but defend vehemently her right to speak her mind. She has earned it by speaking inside Cuba about the lack of freedom and democracy in the island. And she has earned it by proclaiming the abuses in Cuba to people around the world who read her Generación Y blog, where she tells of the government abuses to millions in more than 18 different languages.

Raúl Castro was next. In his acceptance speech for a new five-year term as president of Cuba, the younger brother proclaimed he would retire in five years. And he anointed Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez as his heir. Five years is a long time and in Cuba it is an eternity. Who says that somebody else, even another younger Castro, will not emerge in this time?

The events shattered dreams and exposed a new raw reality for those of us present at the birth of Cuba's tyranny more than 50 years ago. We are not likely to see a free and democratic Cuba in our lifetime, one with the Castro clan judged for their crimes. I will not be able to go back to see the house where I was born, the tomb where my mother is buried.

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