Voice from the Commonwealth
Commentary, World Views and Occasional Rants from a small 'l' libertarian in Massachussetts

"If ye love wealth greater than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest for freedom, go home and leave us in peace. We seek not your council nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen." - Samuel Adams

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Ahh. The freedoms of el Jefe's wonderland.

On 5 May 2003, RSF protested the confiscation of videotapes from French freelance journalist Bernard Briançon. The journalist was in Cuba reporting on the recent crackdown on 78 dissidents who were handed heavy prison sentences in March. A tape of an interview with the wife of one of the 26 jailed journalists was among the items seized.

"After censoring and jailing independent journalists, the government is now trying to censor their families in order make the world forget about those in jail," said RSF Secretary-General Robert Ménard in a letter to the Cuban interior minister, General Abelardo Colomé Ibarra.

Ménard also protested the restrictions on visas for foreign journalists, which forces them to work illegally. "This measure is aimed at controlling the news and the country's image abroad," he said, while calling on journalists to continue going to Cuba to report on human rights violations. Briançon travelled to Cuba on a tourist visa.

Briançon, who runs Mediasens, a privately-owned production company in France, was detained at Havana airport on 4 May as he was passing through customs on his way out of the country. He was taken to a basement room and his luggage was searched. Eight videotapes of interviews with dissidents were seized without explanation. He was simply asked to sign a receipt acknowledging that they had been confiscated, as a "rectification" measure.

But Danny Glover and Oliver Stone and all the rest who think America is the police state still insist that Castro isn't a tyrant. That Cuba is free and the people are happy. They have free healthcare and education, right? All state run, what more could they ask for. This is why it is impossible to take these people seriously. They refuse to denounce true oppression when they see it. And indeed, often choose, rather, to praise the man who has his boot on the neck of the people. Where are the Hollywood and Academic elite talking about the cold wind? Oh right, they are telling us that it is America's fault that the dissidents are being jailed and their families threatened.

Here is a story about what thos eprisoners face.

Cuba has placed in solitary confinement most of the 75 people imprisoned in a recent crackdown on dissent that drew international condemnation, a human rights organisation says.

"The immense majority, 60 in all, are in solitary confinement in the punishment wards of the country's maximum security prisons," said Elizardo Sanchez, president of the illegal, but tolerated, Cuban Human Rights Commission.

Sanchez said on Tuesday the dissidents were being held in "inhuman conditions" in small cells where they received water and food "that does not meet minimum sanitary requirements".

Sanchez, whose group has monitored Cuban prison conditions for years, said writer and poet Raul Rivero and leading dissidents Hector Palacios and Oscar Elias Biscet were among those in solitary confinement.

The wives of some of the dissidents confirmed Sanchez's statement, a few saying their husbands were being punished for not cooperating with prison authorities.

"He told me it was a very narrow cell. He has lost 30 pounds," Raul Rivero's wife, Blanca Reyes, said, after visiting her husband in central Ciego de Avila province.

Sanchez said many of the dissidents were sent to prisons far from their homes, making family visits difficult.

< email | 5/07/2003 02:18:00 PM | link

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