Friday, March 20, 2009

What Happened This Week

Plenty of news to cover for the week, and so little time. Let's start.


Armando Perez Roura, programming director of Radio Mambi, has a daily radio editorial called "Tome Nota" (like saying "pay attention"). In yesterday's editorial, Perez-Roura relishes in Wednesday's loss of the Cuban baseball team to Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Perez Roura describes the defeat as "a kick delivered to the liver of the 'evil one' who clings to life and does not want to let go." [Listen here at 4:51]

Perez Roura also states that Wednesday's loss "will be a headache for sports in Cuba," and that this loss somehow represents how "in Cuba everything has failed."

That last quote makes no sense at all. In the last World Baseball Classic, of 2006, Cuba and Japan faced each other for the championship. Japan won 10-6. But, Cuba had already proven itself an incredibly strong team and was expected to do very well this year. The Cuban baseball team had won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, and recently a silver in 2008. And that doesn't mention the several other baseball tournaments where Cuba has reached the finals.

The defeat to Japan most likely upset many Cubans, but there are many more tournaments to play, and its very likely that Cuba will win many of them. [Full coverage the Cuban baseball team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic at the Cuba Journal blog.]


Back in 2007, I had written thoroughly about Cuba's "Black Spring." At the time I contrasted the event with another much more brutal act of violent political repression. That other act of repression had occurred in Zimbabwe targeting members of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). It's amazing how things have changed in Zimbabwe because now the MDC has grown into a much more influential political party that may finally bring an end to the dictatorship of Robert Mugabe.

Meanwhile in Cuba, things don't change much when it comes to political repression. Wednesday marked six years since the "Black Spring." Some would say that the Cuban government is to blame, and others might say that the political climate between the US and Cuba is to blame. And, I believe it is the latter.

In 2003, a few months after the massive arrests of Cuban dissidents, Amnesty International (AI) released a very detailed report on the incident. It is highly recommended since it provides the necessary context in which to view this incident. In 2007, I summarized some of AI's findings.

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."

In the end of its report, AI made several recommendations to the Cuban government, and some to the US government, such as:

· to immediately suspend decisions on any measures that could toughen the embargo.
· to review its foreign and economic policy towards Cuba, with an aim towards ending this damaging practice.
· to place enjoyment of the full range of human rights at the forefront of its concerns in developing new policy towards Cuba.

The Bush administration obviously didn't listen, and just toughened it's old position.

Anyway, six years later, the wives and family of those arrested in 2003, known as the Ladies in White, continue to demonstrate regularly for the release of the 54 who remain in jail since 2003. AI (who counts 57 "prisoners of conscience") and Freedom House are repeating their calls for their unconditional release.

AI has also reported on the recent ongoing repression of the Ladies in White in their planned demonstrations for this week. And, today in El Nuevo Herald, which reported earlier this month of heightened surveillance of the Ladies in White, reports on an incident that occurred yesterday where the Ladies in White met a counter-protest of about 40 Cuban women. The women yelled out epithets such as "gusanas" (which means "counter-revolutionaries") and "vendepatrias" (which means "one who betrays their nation for money").

The confrontation ended after the Ladies in White, which numbered around 30, were boarded on a bus by the police and delivered back to one of their homes. No violent incidents occurred and no arrests were made.

[The Uncommon Sense blog has pictures of those still imprisoned since 2003, Along the Malecon has a good post with pics and plenty of links, and check out an excellent Special Report from 2008 by the Committee to Protect Journalists.]


"The only two Central American countries that don't recognize Cuba's government say they plan to re-establish diplomatic ties with the communist nation."

That's the biggest news I think. A significant shift in international politics has occurred in the Western Hemisphere, and the US is going to have to review its policy towards Cuba. Hopefully, it will consider the wishes of its own people, the Cuban people and the voices of its neighbor's elected leaders.

I hope Pres. Obama will have the courage to do what is best for all, and not just for some.