June 16, 2005

MEN OF RESPECT:

Castro's Black Prisoner: A follower of Martin Luther King and Gandhi in Fidel's custody for 22 more years (Nat Hentoff, June 9th, 2005, Village Voice)

Congressman Charles Rangel—a frequent, forthright defender of civil liberties on national television—has long been a paladin of black political and human rights in this country. He also worked to help remove South Africa's apartheid government, and he has been arrested at the Sudanese embassy in Washington for protesting the continuing genocide in Darfur.

Because of his record, I was surprised when—as nonviolent Cubans had the courage to gather in Havana on May 20 for the first public mass meeting for their freedom during Castro's 46-year dictatorship—Rangel was among the only 22 members of the House of Representatives who voted against a resolution (392 in favor) supporting this "historic meeting."

Then, as noted in last week's column, Rangel attacked American politicians who "refuse to give the [Castro] government the respect that it deserves." And he dismissed the Cubans defying the dictator—who, in 2003, locked up for long sentences more than 70 dissenters.

Said Rangel: "I don't think it helps to be supporting insurgents overthrowing the [Castro] government."

In view of this strange position for a passionate opponent of repressive governments, I asked several people who know Rangel if they could explain it. They were as surprised as I was, and couldn't.

But since Rangel also recommended reaching out to Fidel rather than "isolating" the people of Cuba, I have a suggestion as to how he himself can do just that. Surely Fidel would welcome this supportive, highly visible, anti-Bush-administration congressman if Charles Rangel were to go to Cuba to ask about one of the dissidents whom Amnesty International designates "a prisoner of conscience"—and who was named president of honor at the May 20 meeting of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Havana.

In its March 18, 2005 report on these prisoners, Amnesty cites "Oscar Elías Biscet González, 43. Sentence: 25 years . . . Prison: Combinado del Este Prison, Havana."


Best not to hold your breat waiting for the Left to oppose Castro.

MORE:
Feeling the Heat in Havana (The Monitor's View, 6/16/05, CS Monitor)

Last month, some 150 dissidents in Cuba met openly to plan for a peaceful transition to a post-Castro era. It was the first large-scale meeting in 46 years not authorized by the communist dictator. Such courage signals Cuba's inevitable transition to a pluralistic democracy.

Yet the reaction in Europe to this political assemblage, unlike in the US which welcomed it, was striking. Last week, the European Union decided to continue barring opponents of Fidel Castro from visiting the embassies of EU members in Havana. And it did this despite the fact that Cuba expelled two EU politicians who came to Havana to address the May 20 pro-democracy assembly.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 16, 2005 6:38 AM
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