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Keep An EYE on Castro

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from IHT Online 3/27/03

EU and Havana

HAVANA On March 14, the European Union's development and humanitarian aid commissioner, Poul Nielson, left Havana after a four-day visit. We Cubans were told by the official state media that he would ask EU states to welcome Cuba into the Cotonou Agreement, a trade and economic aid pact for developing nations. Partners to this agreement are meant to respect human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.

.

The commissioner could not know that four days after he left, Fidel Castro's regime would set new standards in disrespect for human rights, undemocratic procedures and lawlessness.

.

Last week, while world public opinion was focused on the war in Iraq, more than 70 Cuban journalists and civil society activists were detained all across the island. These detentions were explained to us on television and in the two dailies: "There should be no doubt that the revolution will apply with the necessary rigor … the laws created to defend it from new and old tactics and strategies against Cuba."

.

We suspect that the law in question is the "Law for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba," which prescribes 20-year sentences for those of us who exercise what we think of as freedom of expression.

.

Even without the latest roundup, however, there was more to Cuba than met the commissioner's eye. Nielson's hasty conclusions are perhaps due to a few days of flattery from his official hosts and to a vision of Cuba reduced to showcases reserved for foreigners.

.

Unfortunately, the commissioner did not acquire any deeper sense of our country. He did not hold in his hands the food rationing booklet. Perhaps he does not know that the average monthly salary is 262 pesos ($10). Visiting a hospital, he was not told that doctors must have second jobs to make ends meet.

.

Most obviously, the commissioner did not read the reports of the World Food Program, which show that there is malnutrition in the country.

.

Nielson had only an hour, just before he left, to meet a few dissidents and learn first-hand what they think about human rights in Cuba.

.

Unfortunately he did not visit a prison to see the precarious conditions in which thousands of mainly young inmates serve long sentences for deeds that in other countries are not even considered crimes, from selling pizzas to renting videos.

.

The commissioner did not meet Cuban political prisoners, who number more than 230. He did not learn about Oscar Elías Biscet, a physician, Juan Carlos González Leiva, a blind lawyer, and 23 other defenders of human rights who are being held without trial.

.

Nielson had no opportunity to become acquainted with the difficulties that volunteers who work in our independent libraries encounter when they try to offer uncensored reading material or that we, the independent journalists, encounter when we try to provide information outside official guardianship.

.

I have first-hand experience of these difficulties. On March 19, after a 10-hour search of our tiny apartment in Havana, my husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a journalist and economist in frail health, was taken to a state detention center.

.

In countries that respect human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, this article would be considered opinion; Castro's Cuba views it as a "body of evidence," exhibit A.

.

The writer is an independent Cuban journalist.

< < Back to Start of Article EU and Havana

HAVANA On March 14, the European Union's development and humanitarian aid commissioner, Poul Nielson, left Havana after a four-day visit. We Cubans were told by the official state media that he would ask EU states to welcome Cuba into the Cotonou Agreement, a trade and economic aid pact for developing nations. Partners to this agreement are meant to respect human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law.

.

The commissioner could not know that four days after he left, Fidel Castro's regime would set new standards in disrespect for human rights, undemocratic procedures and lawlessness.

.

Last week, while world public opinion was focused on the war in Iraq, more than 70 Cuban journalists and civil society activists were detained all across the island. These detentions were explained to us on television and in the two dailies: "There should be no doubt that the revolution will apply with the necessary rigor … the laws created to defend it from new and old tactics and strategies against Cuba."

.

We suspect that the law in question is the "Law for the Protection of the National Independence and Economy of Cuba," which prescribes 20-year sentences for those of us who exercise what we think of as freedom of expression.

.

Even without the latest roundup, however, there was more to Cuba than met the commissioner's eye. Nielson's hasty conclusions are perhaps due to a few days of flattery from his official hosts and to a vision of Cuba reduced to showcases reserved for foreigners.

.

Unfortunately, the commissioner did not acquire any deeper sense of our country. He did not hold in his hands the food rationing booklet. Perhaps he does not know that the average monthly salary is 262 pesos ($10). Visiting a hospital, he was not told that doctors must have second jobs to make ends meet.

.

Most obviously, the commissioner did not read the reports of the World Food Program, which show that there is malnutrition in the country.

.

Nielson had only an hour, just before he left, to meet a few dissidents and learn first-hand what they think about human rights in Cuba.

.

Unfortunately he did not visit a prison to see the precarious conditions in which thousands of mainly young inmates serve long sentences for deeds that in other countries are not even considered crimes, from selling pizzas to renting videos.

.

The commissioner did not meet Cuban political prisoners, who number more than 230. He did not learn about Oscar Elías Biscet, a physician, Juan Carlos González Leiva, a blind lawyer, and 23 other defenders of human rights who are being held without trial.

.

Nielson had no opportunity to become acquainted with the difficulties that volunteers who work in our independent libraries encounter when they try to offer uncensored reading material or that we, the independent journalists, encounter when we try to provide information outside official guardianship.

.

I have first-hand experience of these difficulties. On March 19, after a 10-hour search of our tiny apartment in Havana, my husband, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, a journalist and economist in frail health, was taken to a state detention center.

.

In countries that respect human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law, this article would be considered opinion; Castro's Cuba views it as a "body of evidence," exhibit A.

.

The writer is an independent Cuban journalist.

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Originally posted by sassa

doesn't castro do ANYTHING good for cubans...?

As someone who has actually been to Cuba twice recently the answer in NO. He's crippled the economy. He claims that he made everyone equal, sure equally poor. The irony is that him and all of his cronies live very well. There's a section of Havana where the high level Communist party officials live and it's very nice (BMW's, swimming pools, well tended gardens, etc). The other 99% of the population has to scrimp by on $20 a month. They boast of their education system but what good is it if you can't get a decent paying job. Every bartender and cab driver has a master's degree in the sciences but has to resort to moonlighting just to live a somewhat decent life. No one is allowed to criticize the political system either.

But am I for the embargo? No I'm not. It hasn't worked in over 40 years so I see it as beating a dead horse. We should open up our embassy and resume relations and just flood the island with Americans. Eventually the communist regime will crumble just like the Soviet Union.

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Originally posted by homersimpson

As someone who has actually been to Cuba twice recently the answer in NO. He's crippled the economy. He claims that he made everyone equal, sure equally poor. The irony is that him and all of his cronies live very well. There's a section of Havana where the high level Communist party officials live and it's very nice (BMW's, swimming pools, well tended gardens, etc). The other 99% of the population has to scrimp by on $20 a month. They boast of their education system but what good is it if you can't get a decent paying job. Every bartender and cab driver has a master's degree in the sciences but has to resort to moonlighting just to live a somewhat decent life. No one is allowed to criticize the political system either.

But am I for the embargo? No I'm not. It hasn't worked in over 40 years so I see it as beating a dead horse. We should open up our embassy and resume relations and just flood the island with Americans. Eventually the communist regime will crumble just like the Soviet Union.

:aright: ...even though i am on the fence on the "embargo" comment, great fawkin post...:aright:

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Originally posted by homersimpson

As someone who has actually been to Cuba twice recently the answer in NO. He's crippled the economy. He claims that he made everyone equal, sure equally poor. The irony is that him and all of his cronies live very well. There's a section of Havana where the high level Communist party officials live and it's very nice (BMW's, swimming pools, well tended gardens, etc). The other 99% of the population has to scrimp by on $20 a month. They boast of their education system but what good is it if you can't get a decent paying job. Every bartender and cab driver has a master's degree in the sciences but has to resort to moonlighting just to live a somewhat decent life. No one is allowed to criticize the political system either.

But am I for the embargo? No I'm not. It hasn't worked in over 40 years so I see it as beating a dead horse. We should open up our embassy and resume relations and just flood the island with Americans. Eventually the communist regime will crumble just like the Soviet Union.

dude, i totally agree 100% with what you say. i lived in Cuba for a year and a half and that was my exact impression. the US administration has chosen to take that approach with Vietnam by opening up trade with them, but have chosen to keep the relic embargo on Cuba that really serves no purpose what so ever.

while the embargo had its purposes during the Cold War, that is now over and Cuba really poses no major threat to US security.

lots of EU countries (including british and spanish -especially spanish- companies) do business in Cuba. US companies also do business there regardless of the embargo through their international offices, for example Coca-Cola that does business through their operations in mexico but not directly from their US offices.

i really think the embargo, including the travel restrictions, should be lifted. more families would be reunited and the standard of living of people in the island would improve, which over time would lead to a regime change from within.

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Originally posted by vicman

dude, i totally agree 100% with what you say. i lived in Cuba for a year and a half and that was my exact impression. the US administration has chosen to take that approach with Vietnam by opening up trade with them, but have chosen to keep the relic embargo on Cuba that really serves no purpose what so ever.

dont know if u know this...but Cubans have a very loud voice in American politics...and many Cubans do not want to lift the embargo....:tongue:

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Originally posted by vicman

i really think the embargo, including the travel restrictions, should be lifted. more families would be reunited and the standard of living of people in the island would improve, which over time would lead to a regime change from within.

Matas is right on this one, if the embargo were to be lifted, the only one who would benifit would be Castro and his regime.

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Originally posted by dnice35

Matas is right on this one, if the embargo were to be lifted, the only one who would benifit would be Castro and his regime.

Not necesarrily, first of all Castro blames of all the island's problems on the U.S. embargo so if the embargo was lifted then his excuse of blaming the U.S.A. wouldn't hold any water. He'd have to scramble to find a new scapegoat.

Second America would benefit greatly by opening up a new market for our goods. For example Cuba buys all of its wheat from Canada. With no embargo American wheat farmers will have a new market to expand in. And not only wheat, think about companies like Microsoft, General Motors, RJ Reynolds, Anheiser-Busch, Dell would all have a brand new market to sell their goods. Millions of dollars are lost by the travel industry every year because they can't book trips to Cuba while Canadian travel agents are cleaning up on catering to American tourists. The airlines would be able to cash in too, imagine if American Airlines, Continental, Delta all started direct flights to Cuba. It would definitely help that ailing industry.

Last but not least and my favorite benefit would be easier access to all of the gorgeous pussy on that island. Every night I was there I was banging the hottest women on the planet. I think all of my fellow American brothers deserve a couple of nights of Cuban passion. It's the ideal place for a vacation: great rum and cigars and all night fucking. What more can one ask for?

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