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  • The Unreported Tragedy of Cuba's Repressive Communist Regime

    Cuba—to listen to, watch or read some of the media—is a place that has remained unbowed in the face of impoverishment by the U.S. embargo. Lately what you hear is that it is attempting to make bold reforms not just in the economy, but socially as well (it just allowed gays to marry!) The people still dance.

    Only that the reality of Cuba bears little resemblance to the plucky little island narrative. Cuba’s penury has nothing to do with the U.S. decision not to trade with the communist island, but with the fact that the island is communist in the first place. If communism produced misery in Europe and Asia (where one half of Germany and Korea stagnated under repression while the capitalist halves of those countries thrived in economic and political freedom) why would the result be different in the Caribbean?

    Communism is a human tragedy, enslaving the soul while failing to produce enough goods for the people trudging under it. Communist countries are large prisons; the borders must be closed lest the people escape. And within that hell there are smaller circles where the repression is intensified. It’s the Gulag, the re-education camp or, in Cuba’s case today, public beatings by government mobs for those who dare to speak their minds.

    One would think a journalist would want report on that, especially when—as is the case in Cuba today—the people have finally decided to risk it all and take to the streets to voice their opposition. Reality, however, is again otherwise.

    In Cuba today there’s a growing and vibrant protestor movement, headed by a group of women called Las Damas de Blanco (The Ladies in White). Originally organized by the wives of political prisoners, it has now galvanized others to lose their fear and voice their anti-communist sentiments in public.

    Their acts are dignified.  They march to Mass on Sunday bearing flowers; sometimes they stand in squares and chant slogans or meet in each other’s houses.

    The repression that Cuba’s communist regime has unleashed against these poor ladies is anything but dignified. They have been seized by government goons bused in for the occasion, pushed, scratched and beaten. In one case, in the city of Santiago de Cuba, these ladies were stripped to their waist and dragged through the streets.  In another instance they were bitten. The founder of the movement, 63-year-old Laura Pollan, died in a state hospital where she was hospitalized after a brutal and public beating the week before.

    We understand—though it still rankles—why journalists posted in Havana are reluctant file stories or broadcast on these events or on the overall mind-numbing reality of communism. If they do, they will be put on the next plane out (a fate any Cuban would relish, of course). As blogger Yoani Sanchez—a rare Cuban allowed to speak her mind, with only the occasional beating—posted last month at Foreign Policy:

    “The dilemma of foreign correspondents — popularly called ‘foreign collaborators’ — is whether to make concessions in reporting in order to stay in the country, or to narrate the reality and face expulsion. The major international media want to be here when the long-awaited ‘zero day’ arrives — the day the Castro regime finally makes its exit from history. For years, journalists have worked to keep their positions so they will be here to file their reports with two pages of photos, testimonies from emotional people, and reports of colored flags flapping all over the place.

    “But the elusive day has been postponed time and again. Meanwhile, the same news agencies that reported on the events of Tahrir Square or the fighting in Libya downplay the impacts of specific events in Cuba or simply keep quiet to preserve their permission to reside in the country. This gag is most dramatic among those foreign journalists with family on the island, whom they would have to leave or uproot if their accreditation were revoked. The grim officials of the CPI understand well the delicate strings of emotional blackmail and play them over and over again.”

    It’s unfair to single out the press, however. The Obama Administration has failed, too, to bring the plight of Cubans to the forefront, even during the current wave of repression against the Ladies in White.

    Two reasons are given for the soft approach. President Obama may not want to complicate the case of Alan Gross, a Marylander Cuba has taken hostage. Gross was sent to Cuba in 2009 by the U.S. Agency for International Development to set up internet connectivity for Cuba’s dwindling Jewish community.  He was arrested in December of 2009 and has been sentenced to 15 years for the crime of bringing satellite phones and laptops into Cuba. President Obama also wants to reach out to the Castro brothers.

    We at The Heritage Foundation agree with Churchill and Reagan that tyranny cannot be appeased. We have a proud record of standing up to communism, including its Caribbean variety, an effort led by decades by such giants as Lee Edward, the chairman of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.

    That’s why next week, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, we will have two events on these subjects; the first devoted to Cuba and the second to communism.

    At the first event, at 10 am, we will feature a key note address by Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R., FLA), the Chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as a panel on the latest from Cuba.

    In the second event, which follows at 11 am, we’ll look back at the twentieth anniversary of the fall of the USSR, Cuba’s former patron, in a panel featuring Heritage experts and the distinguished scholar of the Soviet Union, Professor Richard Pipes.

    The collapse of the Soviet Union was a tremendous victory, but the survival of the Castro regime, and the rising tide of authoritarianism in Russia, should remind us that not all the achievements of 1991 are secure. So in addition to celebrating the return of freedom to Eastern Europe, we’ll look at how the lessons and concerns of two decades ago are relevant to today.

    Join us Tuesday, Nov 15, 2011, for a special event, “The Unwritten Story: How the Media and the Obama Administration Overlook Cuba’s Wave of Repression.”

    Follow Mike Gonzalez on Twitter @Gundisalvus.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    5 Responses to The Unreported Tragedy of Cuba's Repressive Communist Regime

    1. jjardine says:

      Heritage, thank you for bringing this matter to the table. I truly believe that Cuban Communism = Human Tragedy. I wish that those Americans craving more Entitlements and Welfare programs cave more credence to how that would continue to grow the massive Government that exists today. Spending must be cut and the private sector must be supported (with less policy and regulation) in order to avoid the reality created by Communism. History has proven time and again that Communism and any derivation thereof (i.e. Fascism; Socialism) produces corruption that promises welfare and support that always seems to fall short. Reality, in those societies, is a strong centralized authority that controlled all media content, through propaganda, that promises the People more resources and 'fairer' distribution of wealth and programs, when in actuality any economic market stagnates and growth disappears to the point that the 'central authority' is incapable of fulfilling all of its policies.

      Is this starting to sound familiar?

      Please keep up the good work. These failing contemporary Communist nations need to be reported on, so that the American People can remind themselves of History's lessons.

      Don't let America be overrun by those who shirk personal responsibility and demand an ever increasing welfare state in the interest of humanitarian arguments. The big picture–unsustainable government spending in the US, must be at the forefront of Americans minds when contemplating their candidate before going to the polls next year.

      Thank you,

    2. KHM says:

      This is very sad news. While I knew that life in Castro's Cuba was probably pretty bad, I had not heard about these brave ladies who dare to speak up and the price they pay.
      My church actually, as part of their overall policy, wanted to meet with the Cuban government. Supposedly to protect members of this Protestant sect in Cuba. I wrote to the Presiding Bishop saying that this simply would legitimize this repressive regime.

    3. Human Rights Foundation (HRF)

      The Ladies in White, or "Las Damas de Blanco," is a civil society group inside Cuba that organizes peaceful Sunday marches for freedom and human rights. The world-renowned group is formed by the wives, mothers, sisters, daughters, and supporters of political prisoners who were arrested during the "Black Spring" government crackdown on Cuban dissidents. During the four-day period that occurred in March 2003, 75 independent journalists, librarians, and democracy and human rights advocates were arrested and ultimately convicted with sentences ranging from 6 to 28 years.

      In July 2010, the Catholic Archdiocese of Cuba announced that the Cuban government would release the 52 Black Spring prisoners still imprisoned over the course of the following months. The Ladies in White have declared that they will continue protesting every Sunday until all of the Black Spring prisoners have been released.

      YOUTUBE : Ladies In White (English/español) by Human Rights Foundation (HRF)

      Filmmakers Carlos González and Pablo Rodríguez made this important 2003 Czech documentary with interviews with dissidents prior to the March 18 crackdown knows as The Black Spring and with their relatives after their arrests and summary trials. Takes a look at the Varela Project as well.

      YOUTUBE DOCUMENTARY: "La Primavera Negra de Cuba" The Cuban Black Spring- part #1 (English sub-titles) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfKW7ZJyDgc

      YOUTUBE DOCUMENTARY: "La Primavera de Cuba" The Cuban Black Spring- part #2 (English sub-titles) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA44JrWuRxQ&fe

    4. MLR says:

      It is incredible how little have been covered by the english speaking media about the "Ladies in white". They do not make news as let's say a cat being rescue in a water sewer, however it should remind us the teachings of Gahndi, Martin Luther King and others of peaceful resistance. Yes ithey are the sentiment of millions of repressed cubans, in a small group of "real" ladies in white.

    5. QbanitoEnMD says:

      I must first declare that yes I do have a biased view of Cuba as I write this. As the son of Cuban exiles who immigrated to the US in the so-called first wave of Cuban immigration in the 1960's and a first generation American born and raised in Miami, I can truly say that I am biased towards leaving the Cuban Trade Embargo in place.

      My question is a very simple one: Why does the United States of America have to accept worldwide condemnation for refusing any kind of trade or allow its citizens to visit an island who is hell bent on blaming us for all of their woes. Last I checked we are the only country in the world sticking to this embargo, yet all of their problems are our fault. Where is Europe? Where is South America? Where is Canada? The answer is simple, they are all in Cuba in one form or another. What I see is a bunch of countries who condemn the US for the embargo and their perception of what it does to the common people of Cuba. And I must ask them what are they doing to better the lives of the Cuban people. I see Spain building hotels- that regular Cubans cannot enter. I see Canada and Mexico advertising ways to flout US law and bring American tourists to the island. I see the English and the French, again in hotels and casinos that regular Cubans cannot enter enjoying the fact that is probably the only tropical paradise that is not overwhelmed by the "fat American tourist." I see these things and I wonder why is it that Cubans on the island live and work in decaying buildings. I see that Cubans on the island have a severe shortage of basic hygienic products such as toilet paper and diapers. Not to mention the food shortages for everybody not in a hotel. But yet this is all because of the US trade embargo. I did not realize that we are the only supplier of these products and foodstuffs in the entirety of the planet. Western Europe especially has had a great opportunity since the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990's to facilitate a change in Cuba. I am not talking about a regime change, but a change to better the lives of the common Cuban who they, hypocritically, say is being harmed by the US embargo. A change in a way that would help to stabilize the aging infrastructure of Cuba. A change in ways to assist in the rebuilding of the buildings that are falling apart around the Cubans who live and work in them. Instead the only change I see are some fancy new hotels and casinos that do nothing for the common man, but do help the dictators and tourists who care nothing for the Cuban people.

      So, again I must ask: Why is this our fault?

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