Seven years ago this week, as the world was distracted by the start of the war of in Iraq, the Cuban regime rounded up 75 journalists and other democracy advocates, and subsequently sentenced them to decades-long prison terms. Some have since been released for health reasons, but the majority remain behind bars. In late February Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after an 82-day hunger strike, and now Guillermo "Coco" Farinas lies close to death on a hunger and thirst strike. Unlike 7 years ago, the world is now watching.
I invite my readers to add your names to the petition you can find here, demanding the release of all of Cuba's political prisoners.
My guest post today, from Eugenio Leal's blog Veritas, contrasts Fidel Castro's words in praise of the Irish Hunger Strikers, with the regime's actions towards its own peaceful dissenters today.
Like A Bronze Boomerang
By Eugenio Leal
The wheel of power believes that the death rattles of its victim are from ingratitude.
Rabindranath Tagore: "Rhymes and Aphorisms"
This coming Thursday, March 18th, will be the 7th anniversary of the arbitrary arrest of 75 peaceful advocates of democracy in our country. As usual, they have been demonized by the omnipotent power. Demonization has been the method used by the totalitarian form of government on this Island for the last 50 years. We remember that in the 1960s in the last century, those who dissented were called "worms." With this epithet were stripped of their human dignity and so that the power could encourage mindless attacks on them.
A long list of pejorative terms entered the lexicon to describe the opponents: traitors, sell-outs, scum, mercenaries, and annexationists, among others. They further malign them by adding the shameful stigma of crime. Given their total control of society and its institutions they can create phony records of criminal offenses. With this they purport to discredit their opponents' political activity in the arena of national and international public opinion.
The debacle of the government system is so great that the Cuban Communist Party has not been able to hold a new Congress, even after setting two tentative dates. The reality is that it has no programmatic platform, no credible plan to discuss with its own members and present to society. So unrest and demands for structural change are gaining strength.
In this context they want to appear firm. They demonstrated this by allowing Orlando Zapata Tamayo to die of hunger in his strike for improved prison conditions. In the face of the world's condemnation of that atrocity, they started the process of smearing him after death. They want to create the impression that he was a common criminal, they call him a mercenary who was being manipulated. This does not hold up in the face of his indomitable will even to death, and the repression deployed against him because he would not show submission.
Demonstrating their characteristic arrogance, they think letting him die would stop this kind of protest. They behaved with the same malice that led them to summarily shoot the three citizens who hijacked a boat, hoping to ensure that the incident would not lead to a mass exodus. What they didn't imagine was that a free citizen would make a decision to step into the shoes of Zapata Tamayo. Guillermo Farinas Hernandez, a licensed psychologist, is now taking neither food nor water; he leaves the regime unmasked, with all its miserable moral squalor open to the world's view. The more certain its end becomes, the more absurd and irrational government's conduct becomes. The rigidity, in the face of the just demands of a man who fasts in his own home, reveals to us how fragile and insecure the power really is.
The government projects a face of altruism and justice to the world. But it is only an illusion. We see that in the Havana park that honors the French writer Victor Hugo. Here we find a monument to the memory of the Irish men who died in a hunger strike. The words of Fidel Castro, inscribed on the plaque, now return like a bronze boomerang to hit the regime:
THE STUBBORNNESS, INTRANSIGENCE, CRUELTY, INSENSITIVITY BEFORE THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY OF THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT FACED WITH THE PROBLEM OF IRISH PATRIOTS ON HUNGER STRIKES UNTIL DEATH, REMIND US OF TORQUEMADA AND THE BARBARITY OF THE INQUISITION IN THE MIDDLE AGES. THE TYRANT TREMBLE BEFORE MEN WHO ARE CAPABLE OF DYING FOR THEIR IDEAS, AFTER 60 DAYS OF HUNGER STRIKE! NEXT TO THIS EXAMPLE, WHAT WERE THE THREE DAYS OF CHRIST ON CALVARY, FOR CENTURIES A SYMBOL OF HUMAN SACRIFICE? IT IS TIME TO PUT AN END, THROUGH DENUNCIATION AND PRESSURE FROM THE WORLD COMMUNITY, TO THIS REPUGNANT ATROCITY.
FIDEL CASTRO AUGUST 18, 1981
68TH CONFERENCE OF THE INTERPARLIAMENTARY UNION
TO ALL THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO FOUGHT FOR IRISH INDEPENDENCE