SOMEWHERE UNDER THE SUMMIT
Last October 12, 1999, the Association Europeenne Cuba Libre in France released a document signed by a hundred French personalities to be presented to the Cuban authorities on November 15, at the opening of the IX Ibero-American Summit in Havana.
That organization, located in Paris and headed by Laurent Muller, stresses that while the international community is preparing to attend the event in Havana, it should be "of major importance to show to the last totalitarian dictatorship in the western world that it will not keep on enjoying total impunity.
"While in Cuba crimes have been and are still committed on a daily basis with total impunity, Mr. Castro keeps on signing and violating international treaties that commit his regime to democracy. It is time for the international community to say no to Castro and to pressure the Cuban regime to reestablish as soon as possible the rule of law."
As this international event approaches, we have seen increased intransigence and intolerance from Castro to open his society to the democratic principles that are now a fundamental part of the Latin American political scene.
Castro’s recent speech, published in the official communist newspaper Granma International on October 5, was a virulent attack against the U.S. while praising China for not opening to democracy. It clearly demonstrates again that the Castro regime will not change. He finished his diatribe with his defiant but tired slogan "Socialism or Death!" which Cubans on the island think of as redundant.
This speech reveals the devious, deceptive and manipulative ways of Castro. For those who foolishly think that it is possible to have a dialogue or an arrangement with Castro, or that he will eventually come to his senses and will do what Pinochet did in Chile – allowing elections and giving up power – there is nothing in this speech to support their case. Castro is getting worse, not better.
That is why this IX Ibero-American Summit in Havana is a pathetic joke unless the nations participating and people around the world use this opportunity to demand that Castro cease and desist his continuing crimes against the Cuban people.
More recently, with the threatening mood afforded by the permission that the world’s indifference has bestowed upon Castro, he delivered yet another of his customary marathon speeches on Cuban television, in which he lashed out against the pro-democracy groups inside the island.
Castro derided them and accused them of taking advantage of the upcoming summit to "carry their counterrevolutionary message to the foreign leaders" in attendance. He angrily said, "They were planning a parallel summit." And he identified some of the pro-democracy activists by name.
He accused the U.S. State Department head of Cuban Affairs, Charles Shapiro and Vicky Huddleston, chief of the Interests Section in Havana, of backing the pro-democracy activists by encouraging "key counterrevolutionaries" to "sabotage" the summit. Castro said they were involved in carrying out the "ferocious" campaign.
Castro stated that Huddleston has been "annoying them since 1992." And that the workers at the U.S. Interests Section "are not there just to issue visas, but to wage war and to conspire" against his regime.
He also accused the Miami-based Cuban-American National Foundation of spending "millions of dollars" to finance his enemies and the Cuban Catholic Church, in order to block the summit. And he accused Pedro Meurice, the archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, of conspiring against him.
Foreign Ministry spokesman, Alejandro Gonzalez, warned that the activists will be punished. By November 3, pro-human rights activist Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet was arrested for the 27th time. The Commission for Human Rights based in Havana, reported that over 30 more pro-democracy activists have been arrested and dozens had received orders from security officers not to leave their homes or to try to travel from their provinces to Havana.
Trapped in this climax of political intolerance and international indifference, many pro-democracy activists are concerned that Castro’s increasing paranoia could result in a repressive wave of arrests before and after the summit.
In an open letter addressed to the nations participating in the summit, Cuban exiles in Switzerland (Cuban exiles are all over the world) wrote, "Meeting and accepting the promises of a tyrant like Castro would only demonstrate a profound insensitivity toward the Cuban people. Doing business and promoting foreign investments in Cuba would generate more exploitation than welfare for the people."
This letter suggests that in order to alleviate the Cuban people’s suffering, the nations participating should demand the immediate freedom of all conscience and political prisoners; the legalization of all political parties, independent labor unions and press, and internationally supervised free elections.
"If these points are not on your agenda," the letter says, "we believe that you should reconsider your participation in the summit in Havana. Otherwise, you will be supporting the only country in the hemisphere [the Americas] where freedom, democracy and human rights are violated daily."
Elizardo Sampedro Marín, a pro-democracy activist in Havana says, "No one should come to the summit. It should be cancelled or chose another host country. There are plenty of reasons to cancel: Castro has not abided with any of the accords of previous summits; he was condemned in Geneva again for his violations of human rights; he is the main enemy of freedom of the press in the Americas; forbids political pluralism and free trade unions, and Cuba is a center for drug-traffickers.
"In Castro’s Cuba, free enterprise or the free contracting of workers is not allowed. The regime imposes an excessive payment in U.S. dollars for migratory affairs while the workers are paid miserable salaries in Cuban worthless currency and it is a country from which about 4 million inhabitants are waiting to leave. And where from birth, you are taught to hate the U.S.
"Aren’t these enough reasons for the Ibero-American dignitaries to stay out of Cuba?"
Sampedro Marín adds, "I do not share the criteria that the presidents should come and even meet with the pro-democracy activists. From these meetings, nothing tangible comes about in favor of democracy for the Cuban people. It will be more advantageous if Castro and his summit were ignored.
"The sector I represent joins others who ask those presidents not to come to the summit. That will be the best message that could be sent to Castro and his regime. They do not understand any other language."
Cuba Press’ independent journalist, Oscar Espinoza Chepe, says in his article published by Cuba Free Press in the U.S., "the prevalent dogmatic spirit in these summits stifle the realities of this obsolete ideology and do not contribute to find an answer, thus engendering fundamentalism and intolerance."
Espinoza Chepe stresses that the Castro regime, by "Keeping a posture as the only one who possess the absolute truth, has already caused a lot harm" to the nation. And that "For the good of the country, it is time to abandon the models and concepts that paint the world in black and white. It is long overdue to observe the total color scheme."
Somewhere under the summit there is a rainbow of democratic ideals that could explode at anytime.
But so far, the world has not extended a hand to help the Cubans attain their liberation from tyranny. However, when it finally happens, the world should not interfere and let the Cubans alone to do what they have to do to conquer their freedom.
Agustín Blázquez with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
Mr Blázquez is the Producer/Director of the documentaries
COVERING CUBA and CUBA: THE PEARL OF THE ANTILLES