Thursday, August 19, 2010

Regime's rigidity

Posted on Thursday, 08.19.10
Regime's rigidity

OUR OPINION: Cuba's ``softening'' all offensive and no charm

Cuba's attempt to put a kinder, gentler face on the Castro brothers'
hard-line government is beginning to look more and more like a flop.

The regime would have the world believe that it has a generous side,
allowing some 26 political prisoners to go free in recent weeks as a
gesture of magnanimity. More releases are promised. This is all good and
well, but meanwhile, in the shadows, the thugs who do the regime's dirty
work conduct business as usual. Every whisper of protest is stifled by
state-sanctioned repression.

The latest display of intolerance occurred this week when five Cuban
dissidents were arrested for demanding freedom while standing on the
steps in front of the University of Havana. As Fidel Castro well knows,
the university was not only a symbol of intellectual independence in the
old days, but also enjoyed autonomy from police intervention and
nurtured anti-government dissent.

Castro's revolution put an end to that. No autonomy, no intellectual
freedom and certainly no cries for liberty, not in a place fraught with
such historic significance and once identified with freedom of thought.

More troubling is the government's shameful harassment of Reina Luisa
Tamayo, the outspoken mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of
conscience who died in February after a prolonged hunger strike in prison.

As reported by Amnesty International, pro-government mobs have
surrounded her house in the eastern city of Banes and prevented her and
supporters from marching and attending Roman Catholic Mass on Sundays.
Ms. Tamayo estimated one mob at up to 700 people. Ms. Tamayo told
Amnesty that on Aug. 8 a mob blocked her path and beat relatives and
friends who were marching, while police nearby failed to act. She said
attacks on her group have become increasingly violent.

``Reina Luisa Tamayo is simply paying tribute to her son who died in
tragic circumstances, and that must be respected by the authorities,''
Kerrie Howard of Amnesty International told The AP.

Others have noticed, too. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
has asked the government to guarantee the woman's safety. So far, the
government has not replied.

Some charm offensive this is.

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