Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Other Black Spring (Part 2)

About three months after the massive "Black Spring" crackdown in Cuba, Amnesty International (AI) presented one of the most comprehensive reports on the event, titled "Essential Measures?: Human Rights Crackdown in the Name of Security." Unlike those who have a very narrow and selective vision of history, AI thoroughly investigated and presented the context and development of events that led to the "Black Spring" of 2003. Consequently, AI's interpretation of events has been ignored and dismissed by those who believe that the Cuban government exists in a vacuum.

According to the AI report, the "fraught bilateral relations" between US and Cuba are the "one exception" to general improvements in international relations before 2003. AI makes a compelling case that by 2002 the "ongoing tensions with the United States" had been the main catalyst to the "Black Spring" crackdown.

AI cites three factors to consider: the US embargo towards Cuba, the case of the Cuban Five, and the War on Terror.

According to AI: "the US embargo has helped to undermine the enjoyment of key civil and political rights in Cuba by fueling a climate in which such fundamental rights as freedom of association, expression and assembly are routinely denied" and that "any tightening of the existing sanctions would only heighten the negative human rights impact of the embargo." Thus, US policy creates "a situation in which perceived external aggression is met with increased internal repression of dissent."

AI also writes that "[t]ensions between the two countries have been heightened over the last months by disputes over the treatment of five Cuban men [the Cuban Five]." Furthermore, AI is concerned over the treatment of the families of these men by the US government. They state that "[s]ince 2002 the US government has denied the wives’ applications for temporary visas for different reasons relating to terrorism, espionage and issues of national security. Yet, neither woman has faced charges in connection with such claims, nor have their husbands been charged with, or convicted of terrorism."

Finally, AI points out the 2002 baseless accusations by then-Undersecretary of State for arms control John R. Bolton and then-Assistant Secretary of State for the Western hemisphere Otto Reich that Cuba was researching biological weapons. AI believes that "against the backdrop of preparations for the US-led military invasion of Iraq and widespread speculation that other states accused of sponsoring terrorism might also be targeted, the Cuban authorities detained scores of dissidents on accusations of seeking to subvert the Cuban system and conspiring with the US."

Amnesty International recommends that the US "review its foreign and economic policy towards Cuba, with an aim towards ending this damaging practice."

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