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11/15/04 - CASTRO MUST GO - 2004-11-15

James Cason, the senior U.S. diplomat in Cuba, says Cubans are continuing to defy the Communist regime of Fidel Castro. Cubans, Mr. Cason said, are looking forward to regaining their freedom after Castro is gone. James Cason said the fact that Castro recently fell and broke his knee has increased anticipation:

"The lonely voices in the opposition are getting less lonely by the day. Fed up by the food and power shortages, and the latest government-imposed crises, Cubans are increasingly losing patience with Castro. In the weeks since Castro's well-publicized fall, more and more regime supporters are now saying it is time for Castro to step down."

Mr. Cason points out that, "activities considered normal in any other country will result in life in prison in Cuba." He cites the March 2003 crackdown in which seventy-five Cuban democracy advocates and journalists were subjected to unfair trials and sentenced to long prison terms.

Some of those still in prison, like Oscar Elias Biscet and Luis Enrique Ferrer Garcia, have gone on hunger strikes to protest their detention. Some, including Nelson Aguiar Ramirez and Ferrer, have been repeatedly beaten while in prison.

Cuban secret police beat trade unionist Lazaro Gonzalez Adan before jailing him on charges of "disrespect." Raul Rivero received a twenty-year sentence for “subversion” for, among other things, owning a chair used by a U.S. diplomat. Seven seriously ill Cuban political prisoners who have been released are subject to harassment, re-arrest, and lengthy interrogations.

U.S. diplomat James Cason says, "The government of Cuba continues, without hesitation or pause, to make it crystal clear to not just the United States, but to the world, that it will not change its political system. But change will come to Cuba; in fact, it is already underway. Cubans will decide how the Cuba of tomorrow takes shape, and more importantly, the role that each and every Cuban will have in it."