Cuba’s changes are no more than window-dressing
ONE OF the very small openings permitted in the past year by Cuba’s rulers, Raul and Fidel Castro, has been a relaxation of travel restrictions so dissidents can leave the island and bring firsthand accounts of their work to Europe, the United States and Latin America. When we met not long ago with Jorge Luis García Pérez, known as Antúnez, who spent 17 years in Cuba’s prisons, he spoke freely of the need for radical change in Cuba.
Antúnez is a leading Afro-Cuban dissident and voice for democracy and change. “Castro’s totalitarianism cannot be reformed,” he told us. “With totalitarians, you do not negotiate. Rapprochement only strengthens the dictatorship. We want to be totally free — we don’t want to accept it piecemeal. We want a democracy that we deserve.” He added, “I won’t be silent. I won’t leave.”
Since his return to the island in December, Antúnez has been trying to organize opposition to the Castro regime. On Feb. 5, the regime struck back. The security forces arrived at his house in the town of Placetas in the central province of Villa Clara and painted over anti-government statements that dissidents had scrawled there. He was detained for nine hours, computers and other materials were seized from the house, and his wife also was detained when she and other activists went to a police station to demand his freedom. All were later released. Antúnez went on a hunger strike Feb. 10 in protest of his treatment.
Attacks, harassment and detentions are a day-to-day reality for Cuba’s dissidents, and they speak volumes about what kind of regime the Castro brothers preside over. Minuscule movements toward economic liberalization should not convince anyone that the brothers have decided to relax their grip. To the contrary, they are looking desperately for ways to hang on to power.
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