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3/24/04 - A “CUBAN SPRING” - 2004-03-25

Members of Cuba’s pro-democracy movement are planning to conduct what they are calling a “Cuban Spring.” It will consist of a series of protests condemning Fidel Castro’s Communist regime. “Cuban Spring” recalls the “Prague Spring” in Czechoslovakia in 1968. Like the Cuban people today, Czechs and Slovaks were denied fundamental rights by Communists. But in early 1968, reformers within the Czechoslovak government began to show some respect for the people’s rights. The “Prague Spring” was crushed by a brutal Soviet-led invasion in August 1968. Only two decades later, with the fall of Communism throughout central Europe, did the Czechs and Slovaks regain their freedom.

The Cuban protesters will focus on the brutal crackdown on dissent that Castro launched a year ago this month. In March 2003, the Castro regime arrested over one-hundred men and women. In Stalinist-style show trials, seventy-five people were condemned to prison terms averaging nearly twenty years each. Their crimes? Speaking out for freedom and democracy in Cuba.

The atrocious conditions under which these prisoners of conscience serve their sentences illustrate Fidel Castro's disregard for human rights. They are subjected to contaminated water, rancid food, poor hygiene, and little or no access to medical services. Prisoners tell of rat and insect infestation, beatings, infrequent access to light, sweltering and freezing temperatures, and solitary confinement.

Dissident Vladimiro Roca, writing in the New York Times newspaper, had this message for Cuba’s political prisoners: “We will not give up in our fight to bring democratic change to our country; in spite of the government repression, we will maintain our international campaign for the freedom of each and every one of our prisoners of conscience.”

President George W. Bush says the U.S. will continue to support the fight for justice and freedom in Cuba:

“It hasn’t ended in cities and towns of that beautiful island, in Castro’s prisons, and in the heart of every Cuban patriot. It is carried on by brave dissidents like Oscar Elias Biscet, Marta Beatriz Roque, Leonardo Bruson Avila.”

“The United States knows that the enemy of every tyrant is the truth,” says President Bush. “We’re determined to bring the truth to the people who suffer under Fidel Castro.”