Free Cuban Human Rights Activists!

ATC Editors

WHILE THE NICARAGUAN government prepares the country’s second genuine national elections, the Cuban government—under far less unfavorable objective conditions than those of Nicaragua—is moving in exactly the opposite direction.

On July 13, after a trial that clearly did not meet internationally recognized minimum standards of due process—in which, for example, government-appointed defense attorneys only engaged in the most perfunctory efforts on behalf of the accused—four high ranking officials of the Cuban armed forces and Interior Ministry accused of drug trafficking were executed.

The following month, the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party officially prohibited the circulation in Cuba of the Soviet publications Moscow News and Sputnik. According to the Cuban CP, these Soviet journals “create the impression that the USSR has been left without a history those who do not have a deep knowledge of the history of the USSR will be pained to think of seventy lost years. Those who are not firmly convinced of the historic necessity and possibilities of socialism, may end up doubting its viability and even lose hope … Those who dream of its overthrow will applaud and collaborate … These publications negate previous history and create chaos out of the present Shield-mg themselves behind the inevitable diversity of opinions, formulas are disseminated that encourage anarchy.”

In the early morning of August 6, three human rights activists were arrested in Havana and many of their personal documents and belongings seized. Among them was Elizardo Sanchez, president of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation. These activists were charged with having committed the crime of disseminating false news” (Article 115 of the Criminal Code) in discussing with foreign reporters the previously mentioned trial of the high ranking Cuban officers. State prosecutors have requested a four-year term (the maximum under the law the activists are charged with breaking) for Elizardo Sanchez and three years for the other two, according to reports in the Cuban party paper Granma (Spanish-language edition).

More recently Orlando Polo, leader of a small group of Green-Ecological-Pacifist activists (a nuclear power plant is nearing completion not far from Cienfuegos in central Cuba), was arrested after he appealed and protested the closure and seizure of the contents of the office he ran at his home. At this point, the rest of his dwelling was also shut down by the authorities. He was later released but subsequently rearrested.

Against the Current, a journal that since our inception has extended our solidarity to the people of Latin America against the interference of U.S. imperialism in the internal affairs of their countries, views with alarm these recent actions of the Cuban government. We oppose the peacetime application of the death penalty and the absence of due process. We also abhor the censorship of ideas and the imprisonment of people for what are clearly crimes of opinion.

While members of our editorial board hold differing assessments, positive and negative, of the social and political system that has emerged from the Cuban Revolution, we all are shocked by the manner in which the Ocho/de la Guardia trial was conducted and by the information so far released about the arrests of human rights activists, and by the Cuban government’s attitude of official silence, at best, toward the Chinese events It is true that Cuba continues to face many hardships due to the outrageous attempts of the U.S. government to isolate it, but everything we have learned from socialist history indicates that infringements on democratic rights of the population and repression of dissenting ideas only blocks any potential socialist direction.

We demand the immediate and unconditional release, and dropping of any charges against Elizardo Sanchez, Hiram Abi Cobas, Hubert Jerez Marino, Orlando Polo and any others who may have been similarly victimized. We join Amnesty International, Americas Watch and other independent human rights organizations in requesting that as many individuals and organizations as possible communicate their support for this demand to: Su Excelencia Commandante en Jefe, Dr. Fidel Castro Ruz, Presidente de la Republica y Presidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, Ciudad de la Habana, CUBA.

November-December 1989, ATC 23

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