International

Sun, Sea and Socialism?

One day Cubans will have free and uncensored access to the internet like the rest of us and will be able to browse Google and read articles about their country. That was just a thought that occured when reading Richard Gott’s retro-style article on Cuba and Fidel Castro.

The same thought occured to me when I read today’s letters on Cuba in the Guardian:

Referring to Fidel Castro as a “dictator” is at best a dubious label, applied most assiduously by those with intentions to kill him as means to justify their nefarious end. At any rate, I think it pertinent to point out that now that ill health has required Castro to hand power over to a committee made up of members of the executive branch, Cuba can most certainly no longer be described as a “dictatorship”, except perhaps that of the “proletariat”, in the now unfashionable Marxist sense of the term.
Dr Stephen Wilkinson
London

I was also reminded of a conversation I had with a Hungarian friend who described meeting western communists and fellow-travellers on their visits to Budapest in the early 1980’s. He said that one of the most painfully annoying experiences was listening to the citizens of affluent, free, western democracies tell him and his compatriots how good they had it. After a while he adopted a two-word response to every statement from these tourists.

“At least you have a quality, free health service”.
“Do we?”
“At least you have full employment?”
“Do we?”

What is still astonishing about the attitude of so many western lefties to Cuba is that they persist in repeating the same illusion that existed towards Eastern Europe before 1989 – the belief that there is large popular support for the ‘revolution’ and the conviction that the working people of the country will reject any ‘temptation’ to move towards a free society. That was exposed as nonsense in 1989 and will be again, eventually, in Cuba.

Here is Human Rights Watch’s report on Cuba:

Despite the release in 2004 of fourteen of the seventy-five political dissidents, independent journalists, and human rights advocates prosecuted in April 2003, human rights conditions in Cuba have not improved. The Cuban government systematically denies its citizens basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, movement, and a fair trial. It restricts nearly all avenues of political dissent, and uses police warnings, surveillance, short term-detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment as methods of enforcing political conformity.

Human rights monitoring is not recognized as a legitimate activity, but rather is stigmatized as a betrayal of Cuban sovereignty. No local human rights groups enjoy legal status. Instead, human rights defenders face systematic harassment, with the government placing heavy burdens on their ability to monitor human rights conditions. Nor are international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch allowed to send fact-finding missions to Cuba

Political prisoners who denounce poor conditions of imprisonment or who otherwise fail to observe prison rules are frequently punished by long periods in punitive isolation cells, restrictions on visits, or denial of medical treatment.

There is only one official labor union in Cuba, the Worker’s Central of Cuba (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, CTC). Independent labor unions are denied formal status and their members are harassed.

Despite all this the Cuban regime enjoys not only the solidarity of ‘anti-imperialists’ but, for some reason, among liberals a far better image than, say, the old East Germany did. It is ‘sun, sea and socialism’ rather then the grey skies and the snipers at the Berlin wall. But read this and ask yourself if there is any difference between modern Cuba and what took place so many times at the wall:

At the same time as the clampdown on democracy advocates, the Cuban government also condemned to death and executed three young black Cubans who had attempted to leave the island illegally by hijacking a small ferry. Detained on April 4, the three men were summarily executed seven days later, even though they did not physically harm anyone during the hijacking. Their relatives were informed about the executions only after the fact, when they received notification to retrieve the young men’s bodies.

Gene adds: Eugene Robinson, a Washington Post writer who has been visiting Cuba for years, has been denied entry at the Havana airport and kicked out of the country.

Move along, nothing to see here…

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