Canada's Dilemma With Cuba
By Nelson Taylor Sol Created: Mar 31, 2011 Last Updated: Mar 31, 2011
This month Dr. Oscar Biscet was released from a Cuban jail, a move that
could mark a turning point in the country.
Detained during the "Black Spring" of March 2003, Dr. Biscet and 74
other members of the opposition movement were considered prisoners of
conscience by Amnesty International, drawing international condemnation,
including a common European Union stance against Castro's regime.
Carefully planned to decapitate Cuba's growing opposition movement at a
time when the world's attention was focused on the outset of the Iraq
war, the now infamous crackdown saw dozens of journalists, librarians,
and human rights activists rounded up, summarily tried, and sentenced
for up to 28 years in jail.
In Cuba, as is always the case in communist countries, the flow of
information is totally controlled by the government. That is more or
less the case for locally based foreign media, aware that whatever is
reported to their home countries, is closely scrutinized by Cuban
censors. However, this time around, the charges of "agents of the USA"
on which Dr. Biscet and the rest of the activists were sentenced,
somehow didn't find the usual indifference that the cause of freedom in
Cuba normally faces.
Dr. Biscet, a 49-year-old medical doctor, has been nominated for the
Nobel Peace Prize by the Prime Minister of Hungary, members of the
United States Congress, members of the European Parliament, members of
the British House of Lords, and members of the Parliament of Canada.
Their open letters to the Norwegian Committee (Canadian MPs requested
that their identities not be publicized) outlined the importance of
honouring Dr. Biscet, a human rights defender of universal stature, as a
way of recognizing his selfless struggle for human dignity.
Dr. Biscet's story of opposition started earlier in the 80s, but it
wasn't until 1997 that he really irked the government (see
lawtonfoundation.com for further reference) by conducting a clandestine
ten-month research study at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital documenting
unofficial statistical data on abortion techniques.
During this study, many Cuban mothers testified that their newborn
babies were killed right after birth, a common practice in hospitals
throughout the island. The research study, "Rivanol: A Method to Destroy
Life," was officially delivered to the Cuban government in June 9, 1998,
along with a letter addressed to Fidel Castro accusing the Cuban
National Health System of genocide. Needless to say, that was the end
not only of Dr. Biscet's medical career but also his wife's career as a
Dr. Biscet's mere nomination [for the Nobel prize] helps to lessen the
degree of ostracism the regime uses to stifle Cuban dissidents. In
addition to the regular beatings and subhuman conditions suffered by
Cuban prisoners of conscience, the psychological tortures inflicted upon
these men and women include prolonged periods of solitary confinement,
the prohibition of literature, and forced separation from their
families. The main goal of this is to break their spirits. A frequent
script used by interrogators and jailers is: "While you rot in here,
life continues outside, and the fact is that in the so-called free
world, nobody cares whether you live or die."
By recognizing Dr. Biscet's struggle, the opposition movement gains the
legitimacy that most in the free world have exclusively granted to the
regime. Through Dr. Biscet, we see a solidarity that up to now was
accustomed to a world seemingly mesmerized by the charms of a despot.
Canada has consistently been a major facilitator of the Cuban regime's
survival ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. When it comes to
liquidity contribution via trade, investment, and tourism, Canada leads
the world by providing the cash that the Castro family desperately needs
to stay in power. This occurs regardless of which party has the most
seats in Parliament.
The apparent secret bond between Canada and the regime, which is common
knowledge among human rights activists in Cuba, has also damaged
Canada's reputation internationally. A Toronto Star article published on
December 17, 2010, states: "Canada is one of several countries that has
stopped pressuring Cuba on human rights to gain business favours from
Havana, according to confidential U.S. diplomatic cables released by
With critical events unfolding sooner rather than later, perhaps it is
about time to realize that turning our backs on the people of Cuba and
failing to openly denounce the ongoing human tragedy in that country
will eventually backfire. Canadians should question the risks of dealing
with the worst tyranny ever to take hold on the western hemisphere for
two reasons: First, its practicality if the explosive socio-economic
context is considered, and second, the long-term moral consequences of
propping up a criminal regime in the heart of the Americas.
Nelson Taylor Sol is the Ottawa representative director of the Cuban
Canadian Foundation and a Cuban expatriot. His blog address is
http://esquimal-desde-canada.blogspot.com. Further information can be
seen at www.cubancanadianfoundation.com."