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Images Louder than Words

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Images Louder than Words

Mensaje por LoriG el Sáb Abr 03, 2010 10:22 am

Images Louder Than Words

at Capitol Hill CubansFriday, April 2, 2010
By columnist Miguel Perez of the Creators Syndicate:

Cuban images louder than words

For many years, Cuba's government-orchestrated protests were good enough to fool some. All over the planet, many fools actually believed that the Cuban people loved their government so much that they would run out of their homes to shout obscenities at anyone with a dissenting opinion.

And for many years, Cuban government propaganda had the world thinking that Fidel Castro's communist revolution had somehow liberated the black people on the Caribbean island. African-American politicians, proud defenders of civil rights in the United States, would go there on "peace and love" junkets — without much concern for the human and civil rights of black Cubans.

It was Cuban theater at its best. No one believed us Cuban-Americans, who had lived behind those theater curtains, when we explained that Cuba had many more black dissidents than it had black government officials. No one listened when we explained that the Castro dictator had special "rapid response brigades," or gangs of government goons, assigned to squash any dissident opposition with anything from verbal abuse to physical violence.

Foreign correspondents in Cuba even have reported that these "spontaneous" mob responses by government "supporters" are usually led by people who carry walkie-talkies and, thus, are obviously government officials.

Even Amnesty International recognized, in a 2006 report, that these "acts of repudiation," in which "large groups of government supporters verbally abuse, intimidate and sometimes physically assault and throw stones and other objects at homes of anyone considered to be counter-revolutionary ... are normally carried out in collusion with the security forces."

I understood why no one listened. It was too fictional, too Machiavellian — the kind of story that would not seem real even in the movies.

Yet, new technology is uncovering atrocities by the Cuban government. Just go to YouTube and search for "Ladies in White" or "Damas de Blanco" and you will see how a group of courageous Cuban women are treated for attempting to march peacefully on the streets of Havana and pleading for freedom for their imprisoned relatives.

In video and still images captured March 17 in Havana, you will see the kind of repression that the Cuban government no longer can hide behind its theater curtains. You will see how Cuban authorities forcibly intervened in a peaceful demonstration and dragged these women into a bus while other Cuban government goons shouted obscenities at them.

Circulated around the world via the Internet, these images have ignited a new wave of condemnation against the Castro regime. That's why thousands of non-Cubans joined with Cuban-Americans in dissident solidarity marches in Miami, Los Angeles and New York last weekend. That's why they were dressed in white.

They have seen the images of peaceful Cuban dissidents being accosted by angry mobs in the same way that a lynch mob would more logically confront a rapist or a serial killer. They have seen how even the relatives of imprisoned dissidents — some black, some elderly and one still mourning the recent hunger-strike death of her dissident son in a Cuban prison — are subjected to all kinds of human rights violations.

After the latest "Ladies in White" repression video, even President Barack Obama, who has been trying to befriend the Castro brothers, was forced to condemn them.

"Instead of embracing an opportunity to enter a new era, Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist," Obama said in a written statement. "Today, I join my voice with brave individuals across Cuba and a growing chorus around the world in calling for an end to the repression, for the immediate, unconditional release of all political prisoners in Cuba, and for respect for the basic rights of the Cuban people."

Those are strong words from a president who, just last year, froze $40 million that had been appropriated by Congress to support the pro-democracy movement in Cuba. The recent hunger-strike death of dissident prisoner Orlando Zapata and the ongoing hunger strike by dissident Guillermo Farinas are making it hard for Obama to embrace their tormentors.

Yet, although Obama's State Department recently announced that it would defreeze half of the $40 million designated to support Cuban dissidents, a prominent U.S. senator has decided to single-handedly squash the technological support that has begun to give the Cuban people a chance to fight for freedom.

As if the Cuban "rapid response brigades" had members in the U.S. Congress, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., rapidly announced last week that as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he was placing the $40 million on "a temporary hold." A Kerry spokesman shamelessly told reporters that the senator needs "assurances that these (pro-dissident) programs have eliminated waste, fraud and abuse" and that he will wait for the State Department to "undertake a review of these programs."

At a time when computers, satellite dishes, cell phones and other forms of new technology are finally exposing the plight of Cuban dissidents, when their struggle for freedom and democracy is finally gaining some world attention, amazingly, some American politicians still are trying to block their way. The Cuban "rapid response brigades" need more people like Sen. John Kerry.

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