Heretofore, I have written about Cuba on my blog only one time, but with the unexpected announement of Fidel Castro's delegation of power to his brother, Raúl, as a result of a major surgery for intestinal bleeding, those of us who work on behalf of Cuban political prisoners and the Cuban people know that this event truly signals the very real beginning of the end of a totalitarian regime that has been in power for 50 years. That end, however, could come at great cost for those who have participated in protests of human rights violations on the island and have called for a transition to a democratic state. Political prisoners, their families, and the dissident community suffer continuous, unimaginable inhumane treatment in Cuba; in fact, Cuba ranks as one of the worst violators of human rights in the world today. As a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Cuba has been in repeated (documented) violation of each of the 30 articles of the document since Castro came to power.
I have been in close contact with my friend, Laida Carro, as well as other Cuban friends across the country. Although there is a lot of speculation about Castro's well-being, there has been little reported about the situation of those on the island, particularly the political prisoners and their families. Unless one is directly involved in work on their behalf and has first-hand knowledge of what these people endure, the unbelievable suffering and harassment the political prisoners / dissidents on the island face on a daily basis is basically overlooked and/or not reported outside of human rights agencies and similar organizations across the globe. When stories about them do make the news, many times the reports are inaccurate and / or not placed as priority items on the news wires. Since the announcement of Fidel's delegation of power to Raúl, the opposition has been under even closer scrutiny and harassment.
Here are a few things that we have learned since the announcement of Castro's surgery. (I will refrain from citing sources on my blog in honor of those who have shared this information at great risk, but I can attest to its accuracy.)
- From a source on the island: "The people of Cuba are living under great tension as a result of the uncertainty of not knowing exactly what is happening. The Cuban people are very afraid to speak out or rise up because State Security, the Committee in Defense of the Revolution and pro-Castro mobs keep constant vigil on all Cuban citizen. "
- From another source: "Not only does State Security keep an eye on individuals' home, but they also watch our every step. The measures State Security is taking also are applied to our places of work as well."
- A third source states,"There is an underlying terror that has the people paralyzed, mortified. Only those who support Castro can take to the streets. The Committees of the Revolution, civilian members as well as those from the military, have been instructed by State Secutiry to squelch any type of expression that could possibly incite the populace to jubilation or rebellion."
- Information received via telephone: Political prisoners who are incarcerated have been informed by prison guards that if there is any display of opposition to the Castro regime by dissident groups, they (the prisoners) will be executed.
- Phone service to dissidents' houses has been interrupted, making it impossible for news from them to leave the island.
- One dissident has reported being closely followed and harassed by mobs of pro-Castro supporters.
- "This is a very critical moment," stated a person who was clearly reluctant to speak. "I'm afraid... you don't know who's listening to you."
- Some Cubans with relatives in the security forces said military and other uniformed personnel had been mobilized in barracks and police stations as a precaution.
The list could go on and on...Tonight as people once again take to the streets in Little Havana, Laida and other members of The Coalition of Cuban-American Women are there, handing out literature about the political prisoners and their families. (Unfortunately, many Cubans in this country are poorly informed about those who are struggling on behalf of human rights on the island.) From my computer here in Ohio, I am trying to organize a vigil on behalf of the prisoners that will be held in Miami early next week, and I'm disseminating as much information as I can to individuals, organizations, and governments.
If anyone who reads this is interested in further information, give me a call. The best reported info I've seen compiled on the Cuban situation at present can be found by checking out the Yahoo home page. Any article there will link to others from the Associated Press, Reuters, BBC, etc. Keep in mind, however, that many reporters don't get the full picture.
And, if anyone would like to discuss issues regarding Castro as a "benevolent dictator" and/or the successes of the Cuban educational and health care systems, I have wealth of information to share to the contrary.
My prayer is for peace in Cuba, for a peaceful transition, for the safety of those I know there, for the liberation of those who are unjustly incarcerated, for those in exile who have suffered ex-patriation for so long and whose pain and suffering run deep--people whom I have known for years and deeply love--and for the beautiful island that has been left in ruins for five decades.
May peace and freedom prevail. So may it be.
(Additional note: If you haven't read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it is very well-worth the time. I encourage all to do so.)