Human Rights' Defence
Attn: Annual Human Rights Consultations. Ottawa, 2003
Roundtable about CUBA.
THE WRONG BEGINNING
When Fulgencio Batista resigned and fled Cuba, a provisional government
was established and Fidel Castro took over the power on January
1959. In the early weeks of his regime, military tribunals tried
many former Batista associates, and some 550 were executed.
Despite his popular support, the revolutionary
government proceeded with asevere program and suppressed all remaining
public opposition. Fidel Castro violated and later changed The
Constitution. He dissolved the political structures promising
free elections the following two years. But unlike Batista he
never did it, and never granted amnesty to political prisoners.
to the Annual
Human Rights Consultation. (Ottawa 2003)
Castro’s Cuba has the oldest political prisoner
in the world, Mario Chanes de Armas. He spent 30 years in jail
after helping Castro to get power. Another name we can add, is
the revolution major Hubert Matos, with 20 years behind bars,
for expressing his disagreement about the communist system that
Castro was implanting.
THE COMMUNIST COLLAPSE.
In the late 1980s CubanSoviet relations became distanced as the
Soviets moved toward more liberal policy positions. With the dissolution
of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba lost its primary source of aid,
and with the collapse of the whole Soviet bloc, Cuba largely lost
its main sources of hard currency and oil and its principal markets
for sugar. Castro apparently remained in firm control of the country.
Most of those who had initially opposed him had fled the island
(between Dec., 1965, and Apr., 1973, a Cuban government–controlled
airlift carried more than 250,000 people between Havana and Miami).
Some think that despite Cuba's economic problems, Castro enjoyed
some popularity for his social programs. However, Cuba's decision
to allow further emigration in 1980 resulted in an exodus of more
than 125,000 people from Mariel, Cuba, to Florida before it was
halted, indicating a significant level of popular discontent.
The economy was down. However, the repression was increasing and
the opposition against Castro’s regime was increasing too and
it is higher every day.
In February 1996, the Cuban air force shot down two civilian planes
operated by a group of Cuban exiles in Miami known as «Brothers
to the Rescue» and four people died. U.S-Cuba tensions increased.
With this abusive action Fidel Castro provoked the approval of
the Helms-Burton law, a harder embargo from the U.S., but foreign
entrepreneurs continued to invest in Cuba, using various subterfuges.
Unlike what some people think, Castro wants the US embargo so
that he can justify his own mistakes. By the way, the only embargo
that our Cuban people are suffering is Castro’s embargo against
all freedoms. Please do not forget this.
INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS CONDEMN DICTATORSHIP CRIMES.
Amnesty International denounced the imprisonment of several people
linked to the Cuban Council. According to Amnesty, the Council
included 140 groups of opponents, independent journalists, independent
farmers, professionals and union activists.
A recent example is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet. During his imprisonment,
his Bible was taken away several times and all his mail was intercepted,
read, and confiscated. Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, is a devout Christian,
follower of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, and presides the Lawton
Foundation for Human Rights, a humanitarian organization (considered
illegal by Cuban authorities) that promotes the defence of all
human rights, particularly the right to life, through nonviolent
Dr. Oscar Elías Biscet has repeatedly been subject to hostile
acts against his physical and mental integrity since March of
1998. He got his release after spending his long condemn, but
believe it or not, he is in jail again after participating in
a peaceful demonstration and waiting for a new trial.
Amnesty International said some weeks ago:
“While welcoming the recent release of former political
prisoner Oscar Elias Biscet, whom the organization had adopted
as a "prisoner of conscience"- Amnesty International
published today a new report detailing several cases of people
detained in connection with their political activities.
Two of them: Leonardo Bruzón Avila and Carlos Alberto Domínguez
González , are also considered by Amnesty International
to be "prisoners of conscience," detained solely for
the nonviolent exercise of their rights to freedom of expression
Furthermore, Castro agreed with estimates by Amnesty International
that 600 Cubans are in prison for reasons of conscience. One of
them was Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, a leader of the Cuban Committee
for Human Rights (CCPDH). His organization, according to the Castro
government, is guilty of cataloguing human rights offenses committed
by the Revolution and spreading this "enemy propaganda"
to such subversive groups as Amnesty International and Human Rights
Watch. Unfortunately he died in jail, a victim of rectal cancer.
He died and others like him are dying in the Cuban political prison
by not getting early medical care.
Ironically, among the policy goals of the Castro’s regime
are the provisions of adequate medical care and education. However,
the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights from Organization
of American States, declared in several reports the following
abuses of Castro´s regime against the Cuban people.
“Denunciations have been received over the years of cases
of students and teachers who have been expelled or who have lost
their jobs for not accepting the political or ideological requirements
approved by the State.
Thus, in April 1971, a Cultural and Educational Congress was held
in Havana, and its final declaration established that school personnel
at all levels would observe the political, ideological and moral
views established by the State. The Government issued Law Decree
No. 34 which establishes that students, teachers and workers may
be expelled from educational institutions for “defaming
or publicly ridiculing the institutions of the Republic and the
political, social and mass organizations of the country, as well
as its heroes and martyrs.” In other words, to express an
opinion may eliminate the possibility of access to education as
well as to employment. Likewise, for example, 411 students who
passed the admission exam for medical school with high scores
were not allowed to continue their education, because they had
“bad political attitudes.”
Others have also been denied admission for being considered “morally
deficient,” which in Cuba has the connotation of homosexuality...
Nevertheless, educational discrimination for political and even
religious reasons is a continuing phenomenon and one which must
be emphatically condemned.
Castro says that that economic difficulties are not obstacle to
school attendance and education still free. But that’s not
true. Education in Cuba is paid by the Cuban people. It is not
possible considering that education is free when the worker does
not receive just payment for his work. Something only would be
free when the worker can take a right payment before receiving
these so called “free things”.
The same situation confronts the health care. Nothing is free
in Cuba. The average salary is equivalent to ten dollars a month.
As a result the Cuban people are suffering a double exploitation
and humilation, as a worker and as a person, because they are
hurt in their dignity all the time, because free expression and
free national elections are not possible there.
In every annual report of the Human Rights Commission of the United
Nations, Castro’s regime is condemned for many and reiterative
violations of Human Rights. We today can also condemn him by understanding
the reality in Cuba and supporting our struggle.
Many Cubans in Canada are suffering the arbitrary procedure of
the Cuban regime. A significant case might be, Dr. Lucila Nicot,
54, Toronto, Ontario. Castro’s regime denied her entrance
to Cuba to attend her mother’s funeral. In addition, her
daughter Delia Sanz Nicot lost her Canadian visa, after going
14 times to Emigration Office in Havana to get a permit to leave
In fact, the government policy is to keep family, children and
relatives as hostages to pressure on the Cuban exile around the
world. Right now the most dramatic situation about children hostages
is the case of Dr. Juan Lopez Linares, Cuban Physicist, 31 years
old, who actually courses a post-doctorate study at Campinas`
University, Sao Paulo, Brazil. When he finished the PhD he decided
to stay in Brazil and continue to do other post graduate studies.
He has a son in Cuba, Joao Paulo Lopez Fiallo, 4 years old whom
he has not known, because the Cuban government does not allow
him to go to Cuba or bring his son with him. After four years
he continues to fight for his rights. Many NGOs around the world
support Dr. Lopez Linares`s struggle to get Castro’s permission
to enter his country, at least, to kiss his son. But that’s
impossible, because nobody knows that a dictator may have “good
feelings”. A dictator needs, over all, to punish those that
do not follow him. Maritza Sixto, a computer scientist, who defected
in the United States in 2000, after a brief assignment at the
Pan-American Health Organization in Washington, in February 2002,
after 16 months, she was able to reunite with her daughter in
her new American home. She was battling with Fidel Castro`s government
during almost two years to bring her daughter with her. Only with
an international scandal it was possible to have her daughter.
That is the real policy of the Cuban government, no matter what
Fidel Castro says. It is not possible to believe the word of someone
who tries to deceive all the time.
CANADA AND CUBA: THE DOUBLE MESSAGE
After four years with freezing relations, Canada decides to defrost
her relations with the Cuban Dictatorship, without finding any
positive sign or good will to change into democracy and without
any result on Human Rights improvement. The “Constructive
Engagement Policy” has never been working on the right direction
in the Cuban case. Why? In this small report you can find the
answer. (look for main report, 30 pages) Canada decides to defrost
the relations in the worst year of Human rights violations in
Cuba. We must remember the message to Mr. Chretien when he did
a formal petition to release the four dissidents, well known as
“Group of four,” from Cuba prisons, in 1998. Fidel
Castro simply denied it. It has been a very rude remark from the
Dean of the Dictators in America. When Fidel Castro decided, in
2002, to release the four dissidents, after spending most of the
sentence, was not for the sake Chretien`s petition but by international
pressure. Fidel Castro accused the Chretien government to be “the
most northern imperialism” and has never shown any respect
or consideration for the infamous “Constructive Engagement
Despite this rude remark Canada continues to develop a strong
economic relation and, in this moment, is the second investor
in Cuba with more of 1,500 million dollars. Almost 400,000 Canadians
went to Cuba in 2002 to enjoy all the island treasures that the
Cuban people cannot enjoy.
As John Turley-Ewart wrote in The National Post on January 9,
2003: “Under Castro's rules, foreign companies employing
Cubans must pay hard currency to Cuba, not directly to those they
employ. In turn, Castro's bureaucrats pay the workers at going
Cuban rates, but in Cuban currency, worth a tiny fraction of what
Castro puts in his tills. Cuban exiles and others are already
counting the days when they can take Canadian companies to court
and sue them in class-action cases as accomplices in Castro's
scheme to rob to workers of their rightful wages.”
The Cuban Canadian Foundation does not want that situation to
happen. Canada needs to bet on the democratic and free Cuba of
the future. But the only way to ensure economic investments is
investing freedom in free countries. We are Cuban-Canadian citizens,
this is our homeland too and we would like that Canada changes
the fictional “Constructive Engagement” and choose
the Cuban people in the first place.
We do not only want a vote every year in the Human Rights Consultation
in Geneva. As Cuban-Canadian and thousands of Canadians that support
our struggle, we would like that Canada bets on the future of
Cuba and not on any dictatorial present.We want to advocate for
John Paul II’s words in 1986: “It is impossible to
reform communism from inside the system.” In fact, there
are no reasons to improve the relations with the past, because
Fidel Castro is the past. We call the Canadian government and
some people of this society to change their wrong vision about
Cuba and think seriously on the future. Forty four years of absolute
power in Cuba are enough. Enough is enough. The Cuban Canadian
Foundation is defending the view of the Cuban community in Canada.
Most of 20, 000 Cubans living in Canada want to help for a free
and democratic Cuba. We need to send a right message to the Canadian
government and all NGOs participating in this annual event of
Human Rights Consultations. At the same time, we are sending a
right message to the Cuban people to support their right to have
Human Rights and a new and free society.
Cuban Canadian Foundation
January 28, 2003