By Michael Gonzalez
Published February 23, 2011
As Muammar al-Qaddafi clings to power by ordering his troops to shoot on
their Libyan compatriots, across the globe in the Caribbean one of his
last remaining global buddies is doing his best to keep the lid on his
own victims. Fidel Castro, presiding over the wreckage of what was once
the thriving island of Cuba, stepped up repression today, the first
anniversary of the hunger-strike death of a dissident leader, lest
others take to the streets.
Castro's political police are imprisoning Cuban dissidents to prevent
them from marking the death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a simple
bricklayer who was sent to prison on March 20, 2003, for "disobedience"
(yes, an adult person can be so charged in Castro's Socialist paradise
for speaking his mind) and died on Feb. 23, 2010 -- after two months on
Blogger Yoani Sanchez, one of a handful of dissidents in Cuba to have
access to Twitter, has been sending Tweets all day detailing who has
been held under house arrest.
According to Sanchez, such opposition figures as Jose Urbino, Zaldivar
Maria Antonia Hidalgo, Caridad Caballer and Luis Felipe Rojas have been
surrounded by government goons in the city of Holguin.
Even the "Ladies in White," a group of spouses of political prisoners
who meet and march through the streets, their dignity held high in the
face of heckles and punching by government goons, are being blocked from
meeting today, according to Sanchez. She quotes Lady in White Berta
Soler as saying that 13 of her fellow Ladies are being held by police
inside a house and that other dissidents have had their ID papers taken
away by police.
In an afternoon tweet, Sanchez described how she had called blogger
Katia Sonia and could overhear a government-organized crowd sent to Miss
Sonia's home in order to intimidate her. But don't let anyone think that
Cubans have even the few rights their Middle Eastern counterparts have.
Indeed, the differences are telling. In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya,
Twitter, Facebook and mobile phones played a key role in organizing the
protests, but in Cuba the vast majority of people are denied access to
these modern-day means of communication. Hosni Mubarak, Ben Ali and
Qaddafi were in power for three decades, an obscene length of time by
democratic standards. But they're pikers when it comes to Cuba's
self-described Maximum Leader, who has clocked five decades and
counting. And, of course, while Tunisians, Egyptians and Libyans have
lived in political oppression, they at least have private property and
the right to sell and buy it. Cubans, however, live in totalitarian
communism, with no right to own anything.
"Leftist tyrannies are the worst of all tyrannies," the dissident
journalist Jose Antonio Fornaris Ramos told The Heritage Foundation on
the telephone. "They own your house, all your goods, your place of
employment and all you're given to eat. They're absolute. Everyone is
afraid, and they're right to be afraid."
Wednesday's house arrests, he said, "are a violation of our
constitution, which says very clearly that only courts can hold you
under house arrest."
Commenting on the protest in the Middle East, he said: "What it shows is
that democracy is man's best invention. The real statesmen left power
voluntarily, like George Washington and Nelson Mandela. Those who hang
on to power are dictators."
Michael Gonzalez is vice president of communications for The Heritage