Editorial del Global and Mail de Canada
Colaboracion de Nelson Taylor
With market reforms at home, a loosening of travel restrictions from its old enemy to the north, and Fidel Castro out of the picture, Cuba should be on the road to a freer future. A new Human Rights Watch report, however, shows that, under the rule of Raul Castro, Fidel's brother, Cuba continues to oppress even the loneliest dissenter. Canada must work with other nations to demand political reform.
The most pernicious abuse comes out of the use of the "dangerousness" provision. Cuban law allows people with a "special proclivity [to commit crimes] demonstrated by conduct that is observed to be in manifest contradiction with the norms of socialist morality" to be imprisoned. It's hard time for pre-crime.
Human Rights Watch has documented more than new 40 cases of imprisonment for reasons of "danger-ousness" under Raul Castro's presidency. The charges are levied against those who organize or call individually for change in Cuba, and against people who get fired from their jobs for having been activists. One man was charged with dangerousness after distributing copies of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
The regime is preoccupied by self-preservation. None of the rights putatively established in the country's constitution can be exercised "against the state." The national protection law makes it illegal to accumulate "subversive materials." Trials are closed hearings lasting less than an hour. The abuses target only a vocal few, but the impact is national, cowing Cubans into acceptance.
Canada is Cuba's third-largest trading partner and its largest source of tourists, giving this country a position of strength. But it has not taken any lead on rights, instead offering either warm embraces or perfunctory admonitions in official meetings; the latest was delivered by Peter Kent, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, last week. The United States, which tried assassination and invasion, and is only starting to back away from restrictions that harm all Cubans, has been no more effective. A multilateral approach, in which Canada should be at the forefront, would work better. For example, countries in the Americas and Europe could demand the release of all political prisoners within a certain time or institute travel bans and asset freezes against Cuban leaders.
To some Canadians, Cuba is about beautiful beaches and entrancing music; for a misguided few, it is a beacon of social planning. But beneath the surface, Cubans suffer under a repressive regime. Their plight cannot be ignored.