July 28, 2005

I wrote the following piece

Cuba's Totalitarian Nightmare

by Stefania Lapenna


On July 13,1994, some 72 Cubans had tried to flee Cuba on board of a small tugboat, known by the name of "13 de Marzo". Their ultimate destination was the United States. Among the refugees were many women and children.

As they managed to cross the ocean, a bigger boat was running toward them. At first, the refugees did not realize what was going on. But very soon, they understood that the boat belonged to the Castro's Coast Guard.

The children kept asking their mothers what was happing to them, but couldn't hear the answer, as the Cuban regime's boat started flooding the tugboat with water cannons.

In few minutes, the regime's mission was "accomplished" and the tugboat sank - and with it all the people on board, including those scared children.

Ten years later, the bodies of the victims still lie in the deepths of the ocean.

Last week, on the occasion of the 11th anniversary of that tragedy, a group of brave dissidents marched in Havana's streets holding and distributing leaflets with the photos of the victims.

The activists then reached the city's seaside, the Malecòn, where they threw flowers in the sea. Other people sat near them to show their solidarity.

It was a peaceful demonstration and calm prevailed until a mob of angry people approached the demonstrators. They belonged to the infamous regime's militias known as the "Brigades for a Quick Response", the "Committees for the defense of the revolution"and the State Security.

The plainclothes agents circled the unarmed dissidents and beat them with sticks, while shouting pro-Castro slogans such as "The street belongs to Fidel", "Pim Pùm, down with the counter-revolutionaries". The victims tried to defend themselves but were quickly arrested and, while most have been released hours after the facts, some others still remain incommunicado in jail.

Some days ago, Castro mobilized again his militias and instructed on how to harass his opponents and their families. The mobs have been sent to shout slogans and threats in front of the homes of some relatives of political prisoners.In this case, the victims have been prevented to go out their homes because the crowd would not have permitted " the counter-revolutionaries to walk in the streets,because they belong to the revolutionaries".

The worst accident of all occurred most recently, when a pro-Castro crowd succeeded in preventing several members of the dissident Assembly to Promote the Civil Society ( APCS ) from holding a peaceful demonstration in front of the French embassy in Havana, to protest France's appeasement of the Castro regime.

Photos of the angry plainclothes militias have been published on several Cuban pro-democracy websites and international news agencies. In addition to the usual slogans against the dissidents, the mob also warned the foreign press to "stay away and not to back the enemies of the revolution".

In spite of these accidents,a few relatives of political prisoners were interviewed by foreign journalists in front of the embassy.

The repressive actions organized by the regime of Fidel Castro against peaceful opponents over the last few days, are in part the result of European appeasing policy, led by Spanish Prime Minister Josè Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and his French counterparts, who preferred to coddle the Cuban dictator than keep the diplomatic sanctions imposed after the 2003 crackdown on dissent.

Prominent dissidents in the island denounced openly this policy.Martha Beatriz Roque, an economist who was arrested last week and than released out of fear of international outrage, has harshly slammed the French government and invited the European Union as a whole to "recognize that appeasement has failed".

Numerous other anti-regime protestors remain in jail and it's likely that they will be prosecuted and sentenced to twenty or more years for trying to exercise their God-given human rights.

Don't expect a shift in European policy toward Cuba. Any proposal of diplomatic and economic sanctions would be vetoed by the Spanish government, eager to benefit from lucrous deals with the communist regime.

However, no business deal can stop what is reported to be a growing popular discontent and anger toward the Castro's 46 year-long system. Even the official press in Cuba is telling of a "general dissatisfaction by the population, which might lead to dangerous and unwanted consequences".

According to sources inside Cuba, the people's anger may explode anytime soon.

Credible reports from the island tell of amost daily acts of protest against the regime , such as throwing of bottles against governing buildings and anti-Castro slogans painted in the walls throughout the country.

Earlier this week, the police were forced to run away while trying to confiscate satellite dishes, as angry citizens started yelling at them and warning them to leave the place or face the consequences.

Daily blackouts,contamined food or lack of it, social inequalities between the majority of the population and the rich and wealthy elite made up with regime's supporters and foreign tourists,plus the lack of freedom to protest have turned the Cuban population into the main threat to the survival of the communist "revolutionary" system.

The Cuban regime itself is wondering how many more years will it last. Now it's up to the free world to lend the Cuban people a hand to return being owners of their own destiny.

No regime lasts forever and Castro's days are more numbered than ever. Let us help Cuba become the civilized nation Josè Martì always dreamed of.

Stefania Lapenna is an Italian activist. She is author of the weblog Free Thoughts.

Posted by Stephania at July 28, 2005 06:33 PM