Sad anniversary of Cuba’s `black spring’
Sad anniversary of Cuba's `black spring'
OUR OPINION: DON'T FORGET VICTIMS WHO REMAIN IN CUBA'S JAILS
Posted on Fri, Mar. 21, 2008
A regard for common decency has never stopped either Fidel or Raúl
Castro from punishing political dissent even as they pretend to support
internationally recognized standards of freedom. As long as they have
something to say about it, Cuba will never abide by any commitment to
respect basic human rights. Rarely, however, has the hypocrisy and
cynicism of Cuba's leaders been as evident as it is this week, on the
fifth anniversary of the so-called ''black spring'' of March 2003.
While world attention was focused on the invasion of Iraq, the Castro
brothers seized the moment to arrest nearly 80 dissidents on the island
in one of the harshest crackdowns on government opponents in recent
years. Today, many of them remain among the estimated 234 prisoners of
conscience held in Cuban jails. They include at least 19 of the 27
journalists who were arrested during that period and unfairly sentenced
to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years.
Carting political dissidents off to jail is standard operating procedure
in Cuba. So are long sentences and harsh treatment. What distinguishes
this particular event on this sad anniversary is that Cuba recently
signed two agreements designed to promote standards of human freedom
around the world. They are:
• The Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It guarantees ''civil and
political freedom,'' including the right to self-determination, freedom
of expression, peaceful assembly, freedom of religion, privacy, freedom
to leave a country, and equal protection before the law.
• The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. It
requires countries to ensure the right to work, fair wages, freedom to
form and join trade unions, social security, education and the highest
attainable standard of physical and mental health.
The documents were signed at the end of February, days after the
official transfer of power to Raúl Castro by his ailing brother. Some
saw it as a promise of change, but there's little sign of that. Cuba
remains one of the most censored nations in the world. Only China has
more journalists behind bars. Not surprisingly, Foreign Minister Felipe
Pérez Roque said his government would submit what he called
''interpretations and reservations'' regarding certain provisions. We
can hardly wait.
A few timid gestures
Raúl Castro's presidency has done nothing to improve human rights beyond
a few timid gestures, such as making it easier to buy computer
equipment. Other countries must continue to press for the release of the
victims of the ''black spring'' of 2003. As long as the dissidents
remain in jail, Cuban signatures on international agreements will remain