Castro's War on Dissent

Havana States Its Case

Fidel Castro
Cuban President Fidel Castro speaks in Buenos Aires, May 23, 2003 (Photo: Mario Sanchez/AFP).

The clamor coming from certain Western capitals has been, if anything, disproportionate. Many of those who said they were “concerned, disturbed, or opposed” hardly made a peep when Washington dismissed the United Nations and went ahead with its invasion of Iraq. Among those who expressed their “regret,” barely any complained about the five Cubans unjustly imprisoned in the United States for fighting against terrorism. [In 2001, five Cuban men were convicted of spying for the Cuban government by infiltrating anti-Castro groups in the United States. Described in Cuba as “The Five Patriotic Heroes,” the men were convicted in U.S. courts and are currently serving prison sentences ranging from 15 years to life. —WPR]

But something has happened in Cuba to really set off their alarm bells now: Some seven dozen “opponents” of the Cuban government have been arrested, tried, and sentenced to prison.

On April 9, the mood in the press conference room at Cuba’s Foreign Ministry was calm. Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque would publicly address the issue, and it was not something to be missed. Pérez Roque’s fundamental argument was clear: The U.S. government continues with its insurrectionist agenda for the island and was the creator of the so-called “dissident movement,” formed in order to suffocate socialism from the inside. How, therefore, can we speak of prisoners of conscience, repressed intellectuals, journalists with no right to express themselves, or real, meaningful opposition? In light of all the press coverage and media attention this has received abroad, what has really happened?

The foreign minister was categorical. They were simple mercenaries, shamelessly linked to the U.S. Interests Section in Havana, and their stature has been grossly inflated by Washington and the Miami mafia in an effort to present them as champions of “disobedience.”

The Cuban legal system represents the values and ideas that the vast majority of the people agree with. It put an end once and for all to the counterrevolutionary activity organized and generously subsidized by the powerful foreign government whose historical interest has been the absolute domination of our nation and our people. Clearly, those who put themselves at the service of a foreign power to the detriment of their nation’s security could not continue with impunity or consider themselves immune.

No one, insisted Pérez Roque, can speak of an action against these people that was motivated by opportunism or convenient timing. It was simply the appropriate response to the clear imperialist offensive designed to subvert the Cuban government, and coordinated in Havana by James Cason, the new chief of the U.S. Interests Section, from the very beginning of his arrival in Cuba.
The foreign minister’s conference provided ample proof of the link between the purported dissidents and U.S. authorities. There were photographs of warm encounters in the U.S. Interests Section and at the residences of U.S. diplomatic personnel. Free access passes to the U.S. Interests Section in the names of the accused. Lists of money distributed to different groups. Letters from known CIA agents with instructions, messages, and cash payments. Overall, there was extensive incriminating evidence provided by agents of Cuban state security who, years ago, infiltrated the deepest recesses of this mercenary fifth column. Some were given key responsibilities and unlimited access to the leaders of those cynical adventures.

Pérez Roque’s valuable presentation left two basic elements clear. On the one hand, that the umbilical cord of those punished was connected to a large web of U.S. entities that sought to carry out the work of destabilization. On the other hand, Pérez Roque reaffirmed that Cuba possesses an unflinching determination to defend its integrity and independence at all costs.

This is the truth that others abroad should analyze with honesty before crying over a group of common traitors. It has been insulting to Cubans to hear how [the arrested dissidents] have been described as leading figures in the arts, literature, or other notable fields, trying to make it appear as if Cuba is acting against its intellectuals. Instead, a responsible and serious examination reveals them as crude opportunists.

As Cuba is a nation of laws, these counterrevolutionaries have been tried in accordance with Cuban law, and their legal rights have been guaranteed. In their trial there was no secret evidence offered or limitations placed upon them. They are guaranteed their right to appeal. It is not the practice of the Cuban government to deny them their legal prerogatives or obstruct the law, but just the opposite. 

The physical and moral integrity of those convicted has been guaranteed. There will be no punishment cells or isolation treatment for them. There has never existed, nor will exist, any effort by Cuba to establish a relation between these cases and those of the five Cuban patriots unjustly imprisoned in the United States. Their cases are diametrically different, from their motivations to the ethical considerations involved. Salt and sugar simply don’t mix.

Faced with this aggression, and the threat of a U.S. intervention to destroy our homeland, self-defense was legitimate. Those abroad who have been grieving should re-analyze the history of Cuba and the unremitting hostility it has faced all these years. They should review the interminable lists of Cubans murdered and mutilated by terrorist acts financed by the United States. If they are honest, they will admit that Cuba has done nothing else recently than reaffirm its legitimate right to defend itself and to exert its sovereign will. As Pérez Roque forcefully asserted, “We have the duty and the right to defend our independence.”

The trial and imprisonment of the mercenaries has marked a new chapter in the struggle for independence. With each passing day, our strength and our firm resolve are what will guarantee the essential integrity, stability, and self-determination of our nation.