Represión – Cuba – Repression

Different Castro, but same Cuba

Different Castro, but same Cuba
Posted on Tue, Jul. 31, 2007

One year ago, an ailing Fidel Castro relinquished power for the first
time in nearly half a century, arousing hopes that his tyrannical grip
on the island nation finally would be loosened forever.

In the ensuing year, those hopes have been dashed. Raúl Castro, his
brother's designated heir, has failed to make any significant changes in
the state. The younger brother has been Fidel Castro's faithful
steward, altering the course not one whit and giving little reason to
believe he will ever strike a new path.

Very little change

That is why it's hard to take him seriously when he offers to extend an
''olive branch'' to the , as he did last week. Normally,
when a national leader offers to engage in dialogue, no matter how
deep-seated the differences, U.S. leaders should study the offer
carefully. Engaging in dialogue does not necessarily confer legitimacy
on a regime. But it is pointless to talk merely for the sake of talking.
In this case, neither the conditions for a dialogue nor the proper
environment appears to exist.

What, after all, has changed since Raúl Castro took over? Very little.
''Cuba remains the one country in Latin America that represses almost
all forms of political dissent,'' according to Human Rights Watch.
Sadly, they're right. The number of political prisoners remains above
300, most of them enduring poor conditions and harsh treatment.

The government forbids its citizens to leave or enter the country
freely; represses political dissent; maintains a monopoly on the media
(some two dozen journalists are imprisoned); restricts access to the
Internet; maintains political control over the judiciary and regularly
holds kangaroo courts for political offenses; refuses to recognize
human-rights monitoring as a legitimate activity; refuses to hold
elections; and otherwise fully lives up to its description as

And yet, on June 20, Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque had the
temerity to declare that there ''is no human-rights situation in Cuba,''
meaning that everything is just dandy. Pérez Roque also rejected a call
by the European Union to hold negotiations to improve relations because,
he said, the EU had not been sufficiently deferential to Cuba when it
suspended — but did not eliminate — sanctions against the Castro
regime. Clearly, Cuba is not eager to talk if it means easing political

Regime's legitimacy

What Raúl Castro should do is offer an olive branch to the people of
Cuba. They are the only ones who can confer the legitimacy the regime so
badly needs. But, frankly, don't count on it. ''Fidel Castro let go of
the helm, but he remains the ship's anchor,'' says Cuba's former U.N
ambassador, Alcibiades Hidalgo. As long as that is the case, there is
little reason to hope for significant change in Cuba.

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