Cuba: No more

Posted on Monday, 03.15.10
Cuba: No more
OUR OPINION: Castros deserve repeated condemnations

With a few outstanding exceptions like Václav Havel, former president of Czechoslovakia, Europe’s leaders have a deploraple history of painting a smiley face on Cuba’s police state.

Not one of them would willingly live under a 50-year dictatorship. Yet faced with the abuses they would never tolerate within their own borders, they have tended to make excuses for the repression, systematic denial of civil liberties and coercive measures used by the Castro brothers to ensure the survival of the longest-lived tyranny ever seen in the Western Hemisphere.

Anyone who still has illusions about the nature of the Cuban regime need only read the State Department’s latest human rights report, issued last week. It is a depressing, 12,000-word chronicle describing the many and varied ways by which the state continues to deny Cuba’s citizens basic human rights.

Through it all, Europe has taken a markedly soft diplomatic approach to Cuba. Yet last week’s 509-30 vote by the European Parliament to condemn Cuba for the death of hunger striker Orlando Zapata Tamayo certainly represents a marked change from the tendency to look the other way when it comes to the Castros’ totalitarian behavior.

Could it be that the veil has finally been lifted from Europe’s eyes? We won’t hold our breath, but Cuban human rights advocate Elizardo Sánchez rightly called it the strongest declaration on Cuba ever issued by European democracies.

Europe’s line on Cuba is based on the notion that it would permit the continent’s leaders to establish credibility as friends of Cuba in order to nudge the regime toward a democratic political transition. As the shocking death of Orlando Zapata demonstrates, it hasn’t worked, and it won’t as long as Fidel and Raúl Castro are calling the shots.

If Europe has been late in coming around, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva has demonstrated a shocking incapacity to comprehend the plight of the Cuban people. As a former political prisoner, jailed for his labor activism under a military regime in Brazil decades ago, Brazil’s president should be able to relate to the misery and pain of Cuba’s political inmates. Instead, he has equated them to common criminals in Brazil’s prisons. How could he be so wrong?

Perhaps like the Europeans, Mr. da Silva’s courtship of the Castro brothers is an attempt to show his independence from the United States and create the opportunity to act as an “interlocutor” between Cuba and other countries. If so, he’s going about it very badly. There is a thin line between “interlocutor” and “enabler,” and with his latest comments, Brazil’s president has made himself the latter rather than the former.

As this is written, another Cuban dissident, Guillermo Fariñas, is staging a hunger strike to protest the violent and inhuman ways of the Cuban state. At last report, Mr. Fariñas was in frail condition and had been rushed to a hospital after two weeks of refusing food and liquids.

It should not have taken the death by starvation of Orlando Zapata —
and possibly more such deaths to come — for Europeans to awaken to the reality of Cuba’s government. Now that they are on the right track, they should stay the course.

The Castro brothers have only one objective: to remain in power as long as one of them is alive. Only by calling them out for each and every transgression can the leaders of other countries help the Cuban people to achieve liberty.

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