May 17, 2005

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH (via Mike Daley):

Castro: Rule by fear (Nat Hentoff, 5/16/05, Jewish World Review)

We've seen the worldwide broadcasts showing courageous Iraqi citizens risking their lives to vote. But much less media attention is being paid now to Cubans — still free in spirit and conscience — who plan to gather in Havana on May 20 for a general meeting of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba, an organization comprised of 365 independent groups whom Castro has yet to terrify into silence. Assembly members risk long-term imprisonment in Fidel's gulags.[...]

[C]astro's continuing sensitivity to international disapproval of his thuggery has been revealed in a letter smuggled out of their prison by librarians Chavez and de la Paz. As reported on the Web site

"The police told the defendants that their prison terms would be publicized as a government work/study program rather than a form of punishment," According to the prisoners, "(The colonel said) it would be made known that we are not prisoners, that it (i.e., their detainment) was for a work/study program of the Revolution; we told him we did not agree, that we weren't going to work or study but that they were sentencing us for our political position. ... We're going to serve our sentence behind bars."

Their refusal to be broken by Castro is also exemplified by others in the dictator's gulag, and by those who, as of this writing, will be facing is police, overt and secret, on May 20. Oswaldo Paya, whose Varela Project got more than 10,000 brave Cubans to sign his petition for democracy, told the Associated Press in March:

"When Cubans are capable of saying that, beyond our fear, we want change, that hits the nucleus of power." What also can cause Castro more fear is if the international media covers the May 20 Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba. Though time is short, surely the resourceful executives at American television and cable networks can try to get their cameras into Havana by that fateful day.

It would also be a great impetus to the further dissipation of what Oswaldo Paya calls "the culture of fear" in Cuba if the world can see on television what Mary Anastasia O'Grady describes in her Wall Street Journal Article:

"For more than two years now, Fidel Castro has faced a frightening scene in Havana every Sunday. Some 30 women dressed all in white meet at St. Rita's church; when Mass is over they form a silent procession and walk 10 blocks to a nearby park. This is the kind of stuff that keeps dictators up at night.

"They are the Ladies in White, wives of prisoners of conscience doing time in Castro's gulags. The ladies are appealing for the release of all political prisoners, in the name of justice and humanity. Their pleas go unheeded. But that doesn't mean that their act of defiance hasn't been effective. Indeed, sources say that similar groups of women decked out in white have begun forming processions in other cities around the country."

What a wonderful, liberating final chorus it would be for Ted Koppel's "Nightline" (soon to be banished by ABC-TV in an act of nonpublic service) to be in Havana on May 20, with Koppel on-site reporting live on the assembly, or the assault on it by Castro's hoodlums.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 17, 2005 12:16 AM

All it would take is a JDAM or two.

Posted by: Mike Morley at May 17, 2005 6:47 AM

Comrade Hentoff, we must speak with you.

There seems to be a misunderstanding.

Posted by: People's Commissar of Journalism at May 17, 2005 1:00 PM