Cuba’s Unhappy Birthday
Cuba’s unhappy birthday
New Year’s Day marks the 55th anniversary of Cuba’s communist revolution. It is the only full-blown dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere. As Human Rights Watch noted in April, no other country in Latin America is ruled by a regime that “represses virtually all forms of political dissent.” More than half a century after Fidel Castro seized power with the promise that “all rights and freedoms will be reinstituted” — and more than seven years since Raul Castro succeeded his brother as tyrant-in-chief — Cuba is consistently rated “Not Free” in Freedom House’s annual index of political and civil liberties worldwide.
All this is borne out by the US State Department’s most recent report on Cuba’s human-rights practices. Although written in mostly dry bureaucratese, the document confirms that the island is no Caribbean paradise for Cubans who have the temerity to oppose the regime. Skim just the opening paragraphs and phrase after phrase stands out, evoking the reasons why Cubans remain so desperate for freedom that even now many will gamble their lives at sea to escape the Castro brothers’ nightmare:
“Authoritarian state” . . . “Communist Party the only legal party” . . . “elections were neither free nor fair” . . . “government threats, intimidation, mobs, harassment” . . . “record number of politically motivated [and] violent short-term detentions.”
So when dissidents and pro-democracy activists held peaceful gatherings across the island to commemorate International Human Rights Day on Dec. 10, they knew what to expect. Security agents were deployed to threaten, beat, and arrest the protesters; meetings were violently broken up; as many as 300 people were detained. Among the victims were dozens of members of Ladies in White, a dissident movement comprising the wives and mothers of Cuban prisoners of conscience. At least one woman was so severely beaten that she was taken to the hospital in Santiago for emergency surgery.
It would be heartening to report that the world erupted in outrage at this latest illustration of the Castro government’s brutality, which was all the more vile given Cuba’s recent election to the UN Human Rights Council. Alas, no. While Raul Castro’s thugs were attacking and arresting nonviolent dissidents, Castro himself was at Nelson Mandela’s funeral in Soweto, where Barack Obama greeted the dictator with a friendly handshake. That got plenty of attention. It certainly got more than any gesture Obama has ever made to show solidarity with Cuba’s beleaguered human-rights heroes.
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