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2/28/03 - CASTRO IS AFRAID OF FREEDOM - 2003-03-03


For well over forty years, as President George W. Bush said, the people of Cuba "have suffered under a tyrant who uses brutal methods to enforce a bankrupt vision. Focusing our support on activities that promote democratic values will go a long way toward accelerating the democratic transition of Cuba."

The chief of the U.S. Interest Section in Cuba, James Cason, and other American officials met with Marta Beatriz Roque and about twenty members of a group called the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society. Ms. Roque is one of Cuba's most prominent human rights activists. She was among four dissidents sentenced to prison in 1997 for publishing a pamphlet calling for freedom and democracy in Cuba. During his visit with Ms. Roque, U.S. Mission Chief Cason said that Castro is afraid to grant civil liberties such as freedom of speech to its citizens. "The Cuban government is scared," he said, "scared of freedom of conscience, scared of freedom of expression, scared of human rights."

Mr. Cason called for the release of Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, leader of the Lawton Foundation for Human Rights. In October, Dr. Biscet completed a three-year prison term on trumped-up charges of "insulting the symbols of the homeland," "public disorder," and "instigation to commit crime." In fact, he merely participated in anti-abortion protests and hung a Cuban flag upside down during a press conference he held to discuss the regime's treatment of political prisoners.

On December 6th, Dr. Biscet and other Cuban dissidents were arrested following a meeting at a private home in Havana. As he was led away, Dr. Biscet declared, "Long live human rights." He is still in custody. "There are Cubans such as Dr. Biscet who do not have fear," U.S. Section Chief Cason said. "They know that the transition toward democracy is already underway. We want them to know that they are not alone, that the whole world supports them."

In the words of President Bush, "History tells us that forcing change upon repressive regimes requires patience. But history also proves, from Poland to South Africa, that patience and courage and resolve can eventually cause oppressive governments to fear and then to fall."

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