Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Liberty without Banishment for Cuba's Dissidents

Liberty without Banishment for Cuba's Dissidents
June 14, 2011 10:53 A.M.
By Mario Loyola

In yesterday's Wall Street Journal, Mary Anastasia O'Grady brings to
light the plight of 115 Cuban dissidents, former political prisoners
exiled to Spain over the past year along with their families. The
Spanish government is refusing to grant political asylum and travel and
work documents to many of these dissidents, despite the notorious
repression they faced for years in Cuba. The U.S. should demand an
explanation from the Spanish government.

The Castro regime is apparently trying to get rid of its population of
political prisoners by banishing them to a country that will leave them
in limbo rather than admit that they face political persecution in Cuba.
Such banishment is a standard tactic for dealing with political
opposition in Havana: leave the country, or stay in jail. Anti-regime
protesters often bear signs saying "Libertad sin Destierro," which means
roughly "Liberty without Banishment." The word destierro literally means
"uprooting," which is how the Cuban government deals with political
opposition when it is not reducing them to inhuman conditions of
suffering in its horrific prisons.

Many of the 115 exiles are members of the "group of 75" who were
persecuted starting in the late 1990s for organizing the Varela Project,
a campaign to collect at least 10,000 signatures for a constitutional
amendment that would restore basic political freedoms in Cuba. They and
many of the tens of thousands who ultimately signed the petition have
lost jobs, been expelled from school, lost housing, been beat up by
state-sponsored mobs, and been tortured by Stasi-style State Security
police. In 2003, on personal orders of Fidel Castro, 75 organizers of
the project were thrown in prison, on long prison terms ranging to decades.

Their wives, mothers, and sisters took to staging silent weekly protests
wearing white clothing, and became internationally known as the "Ladies
in White." As Mary O'Grady explains, their beatings at the hands of
state-sponsored thugs were captured on cellphones and have gone viral.
"'The 75' had become a huge public-relations problem for the regime,"
she writes. "As governments and intellectuals around the world condemned
the systematic brutality, it was clear that more than a half-century of
Cuban propaganda promoting the socialist paradise image was in danger of
going down the drain."

The Obama administration should deliver a demarche to the Spanish
foreign ministry asking for a detailed accounting of the status of each
of the former political prisoners officially transferred by Cuba to
Spain. In every case where asylum has been sought and not yet granted,
the Spanish government should explain why not.

By accepting former political prisoners and refusing to grant them
political asylum, the Socialist government of Spain is aiding and
abetting the propaganda strategy of the Castro regime. That is nothing
new, but this time it shouldn't go without protest from the United States.


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