Act of Repudiation
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    Muzzling free expression in Cuba

    Muzzling free expression in Cuba

    Our opinion: world community must support Cuban dissidents

    Posted on Thu, Jan. 26, 2006 in The Miami Herald.

    Cuba has escalated its attacks on dissidents — as if that could stifle
    the truth about its moral and economic bankruptcy. Yet the harassment,
    beatings and jailings have not deterred dissidents from calling
    attention to human-rights abuses and pressing for change in Cuba.

    These critics simply won’t back down. Their only defenses are the
    spotlight and international pressure that shame the regime and lessen
    some of the abuse. This is why Cuba’s peaceful dissidents deserve the
    support of individuals, international groups and governments that
    cherish freedom.

    Civil disobedience

    The recent backlash against dissidents shouldn’t surprise anyone. After
    47 years of dictatorship, many Cubans are tired of empty promises and
    deprivation. They are taking to the seas in greater numbers. More than
    ever they are losing their fear. Nothing bothers the regime as much as a
    loss of control. So the regime resorts to an old method: It clamps down
    on uncontrolled activities, particularly any criticism of the regime.

    The new wave of repression started in July when a mob attacked a
    dissident protest in Havana. The evictions, arrests and violence that
    followed were to be expected. What’s new is that the measures aren’t
    gaining popular support or stopping the protesters. Neighbors and
    co-workers, for example, no longer participate in the regime-organized
    mobs during ”acts of repudiation” in which dissidents are insulted and
    often beaten — another sign of the regime weakening. Acts of civil
    disobedience have nearly doubled since 2002, according to data from
    International Republican Institutes.

    When the Ladies in White were harassed in an ”act of repudiation,” the
    number of women marching to mass on Sundays more than doubled. The
    Ladies are relatives of political prisoners who peacefully protest for
    release of their kin. The Ladies landed in the international spotlight
    last year when the European Parliament awarded them its highest honor
    for human rights, the Andrei Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. When
    Cuba denied the group’s leaders permission to accept the award in
    person, the regime didn’t win any points in Europe.

    Not a free country

    Cuba has more than 300 political prisoners, a number that also increased
    last year. It continues to arrest and detain people for speaking their
    mind, a crime that exists in no free country. It accuses dissidents of
    being lackies for the U.S. government, a ”crime” punishable by 20
    years or more in prison.

    After 47 years of Fidel Castro, it is too easy to tune out news of such
    abuse. But Cuba’s dissidents haven’t given up. Neither should the world
    give up on the dissidents.

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