News and Facts about Cuba

Lack of basic human rights one reason to keep embargo

Lack of basic one reason to keep

Guillermo I. Martinez Columnist

November 22, 2012

Last weekend, during a presentation of the book "Cubans: An Epic

Journey," which Sam Verdeja and I co-edited, a man in the audience asked

the most expected question: "Why doesn't the United States lift the

embargo on Cuba?"

My response had little to do with the book. Like a good nephew of a

Jesuit priest, I responded to the question with a question of my own:

"Do you know who Antonio Rodiles is?" His answer was honest and simple:

"No, I don't know."

That is part of the problem.

For decades Cuba's repressive forces have been perfecting ways of

suppressing dissent within the island and at the same time trying to

attract the least international notice for their abuses. Sad to say,

their methods appear to be working.

Back in April of 2003, when dissidents began making their peaceful

protest against the island's Communist regime, the state's repressive

security apparatus quickly 75 of the leading dissidents. The

world rose up in protest. The restricted ties and

assistance to the island's regime and human rights advocates throughout

the world protested.

The Castro regime paid a price for the arrests of what became known as

Cuba's Black Spring.

Slowly over the years, and as had been Cuba's habit, those jailed were

released — this time at the request of Cuba's Catholic Church. Most were

forced to leave the island with their families.

Since then, repression of dissidents in Cuba has not died down. It has

only been perfected to attract less attention worldwide. Now they have

government trained goon squads go out to harass and beat the dissidents

when they peacefully protest. If that doesn't work, they are beaten up

in public, thrown into state security vehicles and arrested for a few days.

Some have been known to die while in jail, like Bertha Soler, the leader

of the Ladies in White, a group of women who ask for the of

political prisoners in the island by peacefully marching outside

churches throughout the island on Sundays.

A decade ago they marched only in Havana outside Santa Rita, a church in

the Playas District, adjacent to Havana. Now they have chapters in

countless cities throughout the island.

But, getting back to Rodiles: The scientist, trained in Cuba, Mexico and

the United States after living outside the island with permission from

the government, decided to return to raise his voice peacefully in

opposition to the regime. He organized a television program that is

distributed within the island and aired in Radio and TVMartí to discuss

with a panel the lack of freedoms in Cuba.

Rodiles' most dangerous endeavor, however, was to sign, distribute and

present to the Cuban government a petition called "Citizens Demand for a

Different Cuba." The petition turned over thousands of signatures to

Cuba's National Assembly, asking only that the government abide by its

own laws respecting the rights of people to peacefully assemble and protest.

All this makes Rodiles a dangerous man in the eyes of the Cuban

government. When he went to the offices of the Interior Ministry on

November 8 to seek information on why another Yaremis Flores,

an attorney, had been arrested, Rodiles was picked up and jailed. Now

the government wants to try him and jail him for a year. He has been

behind bars since he was arrested.

Rodiles is not alone. The internationally renowned Yoanis

Sánchez was arrested and released for inquiring about the arrest of

another dissident. The number of dissidents arrested in recent weeks in

Cuba is in the hundreds. They are harassed, beaten by goon squads, taken

in unmarked cars, and released in a few days.

The harassment of these brave people who clamor only for the respect for

the most basic human rights extends to their families. They are urged,

and sometimes forced to leave Cuba. Some are allowed to die while on

hunger strikes in jail.

Some international human rights organizations protest. The U.S. State

Department issues a statement condemning what is going on.

Yet few know of their plight. The world is a much too dangerous a place

to include the rights of a few brave souls in the daily headlines. Cuba

has perfected the way to make those opposed to the regime invisible to

all but those who live in South Florida.

This alone is not reason to lift what is left of the embargo. But then,

that is another column.

Guillermo I. Martínez on Twitter at @g_martinez123, or email him at

http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/opinion/fl-gmcol-oped1122-20121122,0,3600953.column

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