In todays Miami Herald, Andres Oppenheimer asks, “Is fidel castro a coward?”
Here’s his answer:
You bet! Consider:
• Unlike every other Latin American and Caribbean leader, castro has not had the guts to allow a free election in 47 years.
• Unlike all other Latin American and Caribbean leaders, castro is the only leader in the region who doesn’t have the courage to allow independent political parties. In his island, only one party — his — is allowed, and whoever doesn’t join it is suspected of being an ”anti-social” element. According to the latest Amnesty International report, there are nearly 70 prisoners of conscience in Cuban prisons, while Human Rights Watch puts the figure at 306.
• Unlike all other regional leaders, castro doesn’t have the confidence to allow a single independent newspaper, radio or television station, or to allow people with different ideas to even appear on Cuban media. Cuba’s laws specifically bar anybody in Cuba from publishing ”non-authorized news” abroad, making those who do it liable to ”enemy propaganda” charges that carry several years in prison.
• Unlike all other leaders in the region, castro is afraid of allowing most of his people greater access to the Internet. According to the World Bank’s 2006 World Development Indicators, only 13 of every 1,000 Cubans have access to the Internet, compared with 267 of every 1,000 people in Chile, and 59 of every 1,000 people in Haiti. Regarding what Cubans can read on the Web, Reporters Without Borders, the Paris-based advocacy group, says Cuba’s Internet censorship is worse than China’s.
• Unlike all other regional leaders, castro bars his country’s citizens from leaving the country without an official permit, which is most often denied. Non-authorized efforts to leave are punished with prison.
• Unlike most of his colleagues in Latin America, castro is so afraid of uncomfortable questions that he denies interviews by potentially critical reporters, and packs press conferences with his lackeys when forced to hold them during his foreign trips.
If fidel’s a coward, then why is he so popular in Latin America?
Maybe he’s not; read the rest of Mr. Oppenheimer’s editorial here.