On this 5th Anniversary of the largest arrest (75 people) in recent Cuban history and the Iraq War, human rights groups like Amnesty Intl and Reporters Without Borders took pains to treat the two issues equally. I need not remind readers about the humanitarian toll inflicted by US agression in Iraq, including the dozens of journalists killed there. The conflation of the two issues is just another example of the misguided approaches that exist inside these two organizations.Cuban side of the jailed writers story
The Guardian, Wednesday
March 19 2008
The distinguished writers who protest at the treatment of their Cuban colleagues (Letters, March 18) have every right to voice opposition to a government that limits freedom of expression. However, the cause of the writers for whom they are campaigning is not as clearcut as they suggest. Those imprisoned in 2003 were convicted of being paid agents of the US, and the evidence against them was convincing.
The Cuban government made a huge effort to show exactly what these people were up to, and yet its side of the story is ignored. The writers were convicted under laws brought in after the Helms-Burton law in the US was passed in 1996. This gives millions of dollars (this year $45m) to groups that foster opposition in Cuba. This money goes to pay people to write hostile stories that are then posted on websites sited in the US.
To combat this the Cuban government passed laws to prohibit people from taking money and aid from the US in order to subvert the political process. The people jailed were even going so far as to entering the US Interests Section to use computers inside. Some were appearing regularly on radio programmes beamed from Miami. It is hard to believe that any government would tolerate such a level of interference in its internal affairs by a foreign power.
To protest the plight of these prisoners while ignoring the role they were playing in this ongoing confrontation between Washington and Havana is disingenuous and does not serve the purpose of trying to reach a peaceful resolution that will see all political prisoners eventually released.
Professor Patrick Pietroni
International Institute for the Study of Cuba, London Metropolitan UniversityAnd here is my own letter to RSF and AI:
I was disappointed to check both of your websites (AI and RSF) yesterday and note the coverage given to the plight of the so-called Cuban "dissidents" arrested 5 years ago this week. As someone who was in Cuba during that time, and also remembers the start of the Iraq War at the same time, it was highly shocking for me to see the equal play given the two milestones and the disregard for facts given to the Cuban issue.
In Cuba, the arrests were widely publicized, as was the evidence against the original 75 arrested in March 03. Speaking to dozens of everyday Cubans that week, there was universal agreement that those arrested deserved no sympathy at all. After all, Cubans work hard for little pay and here was 75 people making a fine living (in dollars) writing slander and extremely non-journalistic (biased) articles for foreign entities, often funded by the US or other Foreign Governments (ie. Cubanet, Radio Marti) and written and sent from the offices of the US Embassy.
I hope I need not remind anyone that the US Government has had a hostile policy of regime change and embargo for nearly 50 years - condemned by 180 countries every year. Literally thousands of acts of violence and subversion have been planned from Washington DC. When, in 1996, the US Congress passed a law that authorized payments to "dissidents" in order to speed the downfall of the Cuban Revolution (a Law condemned by almost every US ally), Cuba had no option but to respond making such cooperation illegal. In Cuba there is no laws against speaking out or writing. No one is in jail for just expressing themselves. The 58 who remain in jail are guilty of associating with the US Government and participating in its regime change plans for profit.
Why do these essential facts not make it into ANY of the piles of literature AI and RSF produce on the Cubans? As organizations who must rely on your integrity, I find the exclusion of the mountains of Cuban evidence (available to all on the internet) on each of those in prison highly irresponsible. These were not fly by night arrests. They were only arrested after years of disregarding repeated warnings to end their relationship with the US and its funded groups. I find myself questioning all of AI and RSF advocacy work, just because I happen to know most about the Cuban issue. As someone who is generally supportive of your advocacy, this should be highly problematic for your mission.