latest slanders on Cuba
BY SETH GALINSKY
The White House released an official statement March 24 adding its voice to the latest slander campaign against the Cuban Revolution. President Barack Obama claimed that “Cuban authorities continue to respond to the aspirations of the Cuban people with a clenched fist.”
Obama was referring to Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who died February 23 after refusing food for 80 days, and to Ladies in White, a U.S.-backed group in Cuba that opposes the revolution.
According to the Cuban daily Granma, between 1993 and 2002 Zapata was arrested several times on charges that had nothing to do with politics, ranging from fraud to battery and breaking and entering. At one point he was arrested for assault with a machete. In 2004 he began serving a three-year jail sentence; this was increased to 24 years after he physically attacked prison employees.
In December 2009, Zapata began a hunger strike, widely publicized in the capitalist news media as a fight for “human rights” in Cuba. The Cuban press, however, reported that Zapata’s main demands were “the installation of a telephone, cooking facilities, and a television in his cell.”
No torture in Cuba
Cuban president Raúl Castro noted that the Cuban government tried to save Zapata’s life. “He was taken to our best hospitals,” Castro pointed out. “He died: we regret it very much.”
Since the 1959 revolution that overthrew the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship, “we have not murdered anyone here, we have tortured no one here, we have not carried out any extra-judicial execution,” Castro explained. The same cannot be said about the U.S.-controlled Guantánamo Naval Base, the Cuban leader added, where “there have been tortures.”
Cuban television’s nightly news on March 1 included interviews with doctors who tried to save Zapata’s life. The report noted that family members and Cuban government and hospital personnel tried to convince Zapata to end his hunger strike, but not a single “dissident” group that had taken up his case did so.
Ladies in White stepped up its activities after Zapata’s suicide, including a series of provocative demonstrations in Havana that were met by counterprotests of supporters of the revolution. The group is made up of relatives of 75 opponents of the Cuban Revolution who were arrested in March 2003, 53 of them still in prison. The 75 were charged with receiving funds from Washington and collaborating with U.S. diplomatic personnel stationed in Havana against the Cuban Revolution.
Washington financed opposition
They had been encouraged by James Cason, who was appointed in 2003 by then-president George Bush as head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba. Cason publicly touted his “6,000-mile” plan to crisscross the island to aid groups opposed to the revolution.
Amnesty International, which continues to criticize Cuba for the arrests and public trials, admitted in a March 2008 report that the 75 had “received funds and/or materials from the United States government in order to engage in activities the authorities perceived as subversive and damaging to Cuba.”
While claiming that the Cuban government restricts “freedom of expression and association,” Amnesty International concedes that the Cuban government provides “all Cubans with key human rights such as access to housing, healthcare, and education.” Amnesty does not accuse Cuban authorities of torture, disappearances, or beatings.
“Solidarity” marches with Ladies in White took place in Miami, New York, and Los Angeles in late March. The largest took place in Miami, led by singer Gloria Estefan, a longtime opponent of the revolution. At a press conference, Estefan backed the hunger strike in Cuba begun by Guillermo Fariñas after Zapata’s death. Fariñas says he is refusing to eat to win the release of 26 prisoners.
In an autobiographical note posted on an anti-Cuba Web site, Fariñas says he fought in Angola in 1980 as part of the Cuban volunteer troops who helped defeat invasions by the South African apartheid regime.
In 1986, he says, he was a supporter of Perestroika and Glasnost in the Soviet Union. Fariñas also identifies himself as having opposed the execution of Arnaldo Ochoa in 1989. After it was discovered that he had been involved in drug trafficking, black market deals, and robbery, Ochoa, a general in the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, was put on trial, found guilty, and given the death penalty.
For the last 50 years, Washington has used every means at its disposal to undermine and attack the Cuban Revolution. This has included scores of assassination plots against Fidel Castro and other Cuban leaders, the economic embargo of Cuba, the backing of rightist groups that have launched violent attacks and bombings against Cuba, and the financing of small groups inside Cuba that falsely claim to be fighting for democratic rights.Oppose slanders against Cuba
The February 23 suicide death of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner in Cuba, is cynically being used by Washington to attack the Cuban Revolution.
The White House and capitalist media worldwide paint Zapata as a political dissident and martyr. The fact is over 10 years he was repeatedly picked up for assault, theft, and other such crimes. He went on a hunger strike to demand privileges such as a cell phone and a television for himself. A small number of opponents of the revolution in Cuba, who work hand-in-glove with Washington, convinced him to use his strike to attack the revolutionary government. Havana spared no effort in trying to prevent his death.
As Cuban president Raúl Castro said February 24, Cuba’s revolutionary government has never carried out murders, tortures, or extra-judicial executions. The only torture on Cuban territory, he noted, has taken place at the U.S. prison camp in Guantánamo.
Washington’s attitude toward the human rights of prisoners is amply demonstrated by its treatment of five Cuban revolutionaries unjustly incarcerated in U.S. prisons for the last 11 years. They were arrested for monitoring right-wing Cuban groups in Florida who have launched attacks on Cuba with Washington’s backing. For 17 months leading up to their trial, the men were kept in solitary confinement. Convicted on frame-up “conspiracy” charges, they received draconian sentences, with three of them initially sentenced to life. Washington has consistently denied two of these fighters, Gerardo Hernández and René González, the right to visits by their wives.
The Cuban Five are among the 2.3 million working people behind bars in the United States, which has the highest incarceration rate in the world. One out of every 31 adults is either in jail or on probation or parole. African American males are 6.5 times more likely to be imprisoned than white males.
In response to the renewed slanders against Cuba, defenders of the revolution reiterate our demands for an end to the U.S. embargo and travel ban against the island, restoration of normal diplomatic relations, and freedom for the Cuban Five.