Fidel Castro’s crackdown against the opposition
movement within Cuba has revealed him to be a man whose 44 year rule is haunted
by more than the threats emanating from the Bush administration. For the past
decade hundreds of organizations have formed on the island, opening a much
needed space for debate.
It is this internal movement that Castro is attempting
to squelch by sentencing 78 dissidents in the first week of April to terms of up
to 28 years.
Those who believe all the accused were in actuality
conspiring with James Cason, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Havana (there
is no U.S. embassy), to overthrow the government have not paid attention to what
this movement represents. It is not well defined, nor well united.
It is not located exclusively in the capital; those
locked up now came from all parts of the island. About two dozen of them are
independent journalists. Others were involved with illegal independent
libraries, human rights groups, political parties, youth groups, and workers’
One defining moment in the movement’s development was
the 1994 revolt that started at the Malecon seawall, the so-called “maleconazo.”
The most significant recent event was the Varela
Project. This was an attempt initiated by the Movimiento Cristiano de Liberacion
(dozens of whose members are now behind bars) to get the requisite 10,000
signatures, per the Constitution, to enact these reforms: freedom of
association, amnesty for prisoners, private enterprise, a new electoral law.
Some in the movement thought it was foolish and some loved it. Over 200
organizations--within Cuba--endorsed it. On May 10, 2002 11,000 signatures were
presented to the National Assembly.
The initial response was silence: no mention of the
petition was made in the press. Then in June the Party’s apparatus collected
nearly nine million signatures (there’s only 11 million people on the island)
in three days to sign into law a declaration on the impossibility of modifying
the current political structure. Apparently at about the same time a much more
vicious response was set in motion as well, the fruits of which is the current
wave of repression.
Published by News and Letters Committees