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4/11/03 - CUBAN CRACKDOWN ON DISSENT - 2003-04-14

In the most severe crackdown in years, the Communist regime of Fidel Castro is imprisoning dozens of journalists, economists, and political reformers.

As U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said, "The regime's actions against these brave and peaceful activists are repugnant reminders that the regime remains a totalitarian blight on the Western hemisphere":

"The Castro government is persecuting journalists for acting like journalists. They are persecuting economists for acting like economists, and peaceful activists for seeking a solution to Cuba's growing political and economic crisis. The regime's actions, we believe, are an appalling act of intimidation against those who seek freedom and democratic change in Cuba."

At least seventy-five Cubans are being tried in kangaroo courts. Their only crimes were to demand their fundamental rights. The Cuban government denied the international news media and members of the diplomatic corps permission to observe these sham proceedings.

Democratic activist Hector Palacios and civil disobedience advocate Oscar Elias Biscet were sentenced to twenty-five years. Paul Rivero, a leading dissident journalist and dissident economist Marta Beatriz Roque were sentenced to twenty years in prison.

While the rest of Latin America has moved toward greater freedom, the anachronistic Cuban government appears to be retreating into Stalinism. The Castro regime's actions are the most notorious act of political repression in Latin America in a decade.

The United States calls on the free nations of the world to join in condemning Cuba's repression and demanding the release of Cuban prisoners of conscience.