six months ago today, Fidel Castro's regime imprisoned
75 representatives of the Cuban opposition. More than
40 co-ordinators of the Varela project and over 20
journalists, together with other representatives of
various pro-democracy movements, landed in jail. All
of them were sentenced in mock trials to prison terms
ranging from six to 28 years - merely for daring to
express an opinion other than the official one.
the voice of free-thinking Cubans is growing louder,
which is precisely what Castro and his government
deservedly must be worried about.
the omnipresent secret police and government propaganda,
thousands of Cubans have demonstrated their courage
by signing the Varela project, which draws on the
Cuban constitution and calls for a referendum on the
freedom of speech and assembly, the release of political
prisoners, the freedom of enterprise and free elections.
response of the regime to the Varela project, as well
as other initiatives, however, is at best disregard
and at worst persecution.
latest wave of confrontations, accompanied by anti-European
diatribes by Cuba's political leaders, can be regarded
as nothing but an expression of weakness and desperation.
The regime is running short of breath - just like
what happened to the party rulers in Iron Curtain
countries at the end of the 1980s.
opposition is growing - even police raids in March
failed to bring it to its knees. The times are changing,
the revolution is ageing together with its leaders,
the regime is nervous. Castro knows only too well
that there will come a day when the revolution will
perish together with him.
one knows exactly what will happen then, but it is
clear in Brussels, Washington, Mexico, among the exiles
as well as Cuban residents themselves, that freedom,
democracy and prosperity in Cuba depend on support
for Cuban dissidents, and that such support will increase
the chances of Cuba's peaceful transition to democracy.
it is the responsibility of the democratic world to
support representatives of the Cuban opposition, irrespective
of how long the Cuban Stalinists manage to cling to
Cuban opposition must enjoy the same international
support as political dissidents did in divided Europe.
cannot be claimed that the US embargo of Cuba has
brought about the desired result. Neither can this
be said about the European policy, which has been
considerably more forthcoming towards the Cuban regime.
is time to put aside transatlantic disputes about
the embargo of Cuba and to concentrate on direct support
for Cuban dissidents, prisoners of conscience and
ought to make it unambiguously clear that Castro is
a dictator and that, for democratic countries, a dictatorship
cannot become a partner until it begins a process
of political liberalisation.
the same time, European countries should establish
a "Cuban democracy fund" to support the
emergence of a civil society in Cuba. Such a fund
would be ready for instant use in the event of political
changes on the island.
peaceful transitions from dictatorship to democracy,
first in Spain and later in the East, have been an
inspiration for the Cuban opposition, so Europe should
not hesitate now. Its own history obliges it to act.
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