I tend to limit as much as possible my blog to what is happening in Venezuela, but reading the following article by Vaclav Havel which appeared in today’s El Nacional, reminds me of the uselessness of international opinion and pressure when such horrors go on in the world. In fact, I have made some comments about our situation that are similar to things said by the former President of the Czech Republic.Venezuelans should read it carefully and realize its meaning in the context of what is happening in our country.Only we can save ourselves and our country.
Fidel Castro’s discreet terror by Vaclav Havel
This spring marks the third anniversary of the wave of repression in
which Fidel Castro’s regime arrested and handed down long sentences to
75 leading Cuban dissidents. Soon afterwards, many friends and I formed
the International Committee for Democracy in Cuba.
The bravery of those who found their social conscience,
overcame fear, and stood up to communist dictatorship remains fresh in
my memory. It reminds me of the jingle of keys that rang out on
Prague’s Wenceslas Square – and later around the rest of what was then
Czechoslovakia – in the autumn of 1989.
This is why I rang keys during the conference calling for
democracy in Cuba that our committee held in Prague three years ago. I
wanted to draw the international community’s attention to the
human-rights situation in Cuba, to support that country’s opposition,
and to encourage all pro-democratic forces. The European Union then
introduced diplomatic sanctions, albeit mostly symbolic, against
Soon after, however, a contrary position came to the fore. The EU
opened a dialogue with the Cuban regime, sanctions were conditionally
suspended, and it was even made clear to dissidents that they were not
welcome at the embassies of several democratic countries. Cowardly
compromise and political alibis – as so often in history – defeated a
principled position. In return, the Cuban regime made a sham gesture by
releasing a small number of the prisoners of conscience – mostly those
who were tortured and seriously ill – who the regime most feared would
die in its notorious prisons.
Those of us who live in Europe’s new post-communist democracies
experienced similar political deals when we lived behind the former
Iron Curtain. We are also extremely familiar with the argument that
European policies have not led to any mass arrests in Cuba. But
democracy has shown weakness and the Cuban regime has in turn adapted
Respected organizations like Reporters without Borders and
Amnesty International have collected ample evidence of violence and
intimidation against freethinking Cubans, who can expect a different
kind of ring than that from jangling keys. Their cases often do not end
in courts but in hospitals. Groups of “fighters for the revolution” –
in reality, the Cuban secret police – brutally attack their political
opponents and accuse them of absurd crimes in an effort to intimidate
them or to force them to emigrate. On the island, such planned
harassments are called “actos de repudio” – “acts of rejection.”
Political violence that creates the impression of mere street
crime is never easy to prove, unlike jail terms of several years, and
therefore it does not receive due attention from the world. However,
thousands of former political prisoners in central and eastern Europe
can attest to the fact that a kick from a secret policeman on the
street hurts just as much as a kick from a warden behind prison gates.
The powerlessness of the victim of state-organized street
fights and threats against his family is experienced in the same way as
the powerlessness of somebody harassed during a state security
investigation. Many European politicians who have sought to see the
situation on the ground have been barred in recent years.
Some Europeans apparently regard Cuba as a faraway country whose fate
they need take no interest in, because they have problems of their own.
But what Cubans are enduring today is part of our own European history.
Who better than Europeans, who brought communism to life, exported it
to the world, and then paid dearly for it over many decades, know
better about the torments inflicted upon the Cuban people?
Humanity will pay the price for communism until such a time as
we learn to stand up to it with all political responsibility and
decisiveness. We have many opportunities to do so in Europe and Cuba.
And it is no surprise that the new member countries of the EU have
brought to Europe fresh historical experience, and with it far less
understanding for and tolerance of concession and compromise.
Representatives of the EU’s member states will meet in Brussels
in mid-June to review a common policy towards Cuba. European diplomats
should weigh up the consequences of accommodating Castro’s regime. They
should show that they will neither ignore his practices nor neglect the
suffering of Cuban prisoners of conscience. We must never forget the
seemingly anonymous victims of Castro’s “acts of rejection.”