Oppose Repression in Cuba

Against the Current, No. 105, July/August 2003

statement published by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy

[The following statement is published by the Campaign for Peace and Democracy (www.cpd.org).]

WE, THE UNDERSIGNED, strongly protest the current wave of repression in Cuba. We condemn the arrests of scores of opponents of the Cuban government for their nonviolent political activities, and the shockingly long prison sentences some as high as 28 years — imposed after unfair trials.

According to Amnesty International, the arrestees include journalists, owners of private libraries and members of illegal opposition parties. We condemn as well the trial and execution of three alleged hijackers in a week’s time, both for the lack of due process and because we oppose capital punishment on principle.

As anti-war, social justice and human rights advocates, we condemned the brutal Saddam Hussein regime, and we oppose the United States occupation of Iraq. We support civil liberties and democratic rights everywhere, regardless of the country’s economic, political or social system. We believe it is imperative to be consistent in opposing repression wherever it takes place, whether in Iraq or Saudi Arabia, Israel or Cuba, Turkey or the United States.

Democratic change in Cuba needs to be achieved by the Cuban people themselves. The Cuban government’s violations of democratic rights do not justify sanctions or any other form of intervention by the United States in Cuba.

The government of the United States — which employs the rhetoric of human rights when doing so promotes its imperial goals, but maintains a discreet silence or makes only token protests when U.S. allies are involved, and which fully supports the barbaric practice of capital punishment, routinely inflicted in the U.S. — is hardly in a position to preach democracy and human rights.

And we recall too the long, criminal record of U.S. interventions in Latin America. This record has included six decades of exploitation and imperial control of Cuba, followed by an attempted invasion and a campaign of international terrorism and economic warfare, that is by now well-documented.

Only a government that repudiated this record, renounced any intention of restoring its economic or political domination over Cuba, either directly or through rightwing Cuban-American proxies, and promised to respect the democratic will of the Cuban people themselves would have the moral legitimacy to call for democratic change in Cuba.

As the Bush administration, further emboldened by its military victory in Iraq, threatens to wage “preemptive” wars around the globe we reaffirm our support for the right of self-determination in Cuba and our strong opposition to the U.S. policy of economic sanctions that has brought such suffering to the Cuban people.

At the same time, we support democracy in Cuba. The imprisonment of people for attempting to exercise their rights of free expression is outrageous and unacceptable. We call on the Castro government to release all political prisoners and let the Cuban people speak, write and organize freely.

 [A COMMENT FROM the Campaign for Peace and Democracy: The text below is not part of the statement to be signed, but a comment from the Campaign for Peace and Democracy on some issues that often arise in discussion about democracy in Cuba. People who agree with the statement itself need not agree with this comment in order to sign the statement.]

All the information available to us indicates that, apart from the individuals accused of hijacking, none of the prisoners were charged with violent actions; rather, they have been accused of collaborating with U.S. diplomats to undermine the state, and/or receiving American government funds.

Many of them, as well as other Cuban dissidents, have met with James Cason, head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, and some have received duplicating materials, funding or other resources directly from the U.S. government or from NGOs funded by Washington.

One reason dissidents turn to the U.S. for help is that Cubans are not consistently allowed access to the tools necessary to disseminate their views to the public: computers, copying machines, printers, etc. Obviously they would not be as likely to accept American aid, and the political influence that generally accompanies it, if Cuban citizens, whatever their views, were free to acquire these items themselves, without obstacles.

Many dissidents (and non-dissidents) in Cuba look to the United States, some because they actually favor an unbridled U.S.-style capitalist system, others because they sincerely believe that the U.S. is interested in promoting genuine political and social democracy in Cuba. The latter are terribly mistaken, because Washington’s interest is in reconstructing a society of private wealth and privilege and in promoting a conservative, and probably repressive, pro-U.S. government in Havana.

But this is a political problem that in no way justifies repression. Rightwing politics and support for the U.S. in Cuba cannot be countered by censorship and imprisonment. Neither the Cuban government nor any other government has the right to stifle or obstruct the free expression of opinions, no matter how repellent or misguided we think they might be.

Instead, progressives should try to influence Cubans by simultaneously protesting the Castro government’s repression and U.S. interventionism, and exposing Washington’s reactionary agenda for their country.

[The following is a sample of signatories of the CPD statement. A list including over 800 additional signatures is available at http://www.cpdweb.org]

Michael Albert
Kevin Anderson
Gaston Alonso-Donate
Stanley Aronowitz
Mel Bienenfeld
Juan Antonio Blanco Gil
Jan Breidenbach
Robert Brenner
Bob Briggs
David Camfield
Lorenzo Canizares
Donna Cartwright
Noam Chomsky
Mike Davis
Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
Ariel Dorfman
Steve Downs
Barbara Ehrenreich
Carlos Espinosa
Gertrude Ezorsky
Samuel Farber
David Finkel
Frank Fried
Sam Friedman
Nanette Funk
Pamela Galpern
Janeane Garofalo
Barbara Garson
Jack Gerson
Linda Gordon
Tom Harrison
Barbara Harvey
Howie Hawkins
Gisela Hidalgo
Nancy Holmstrom
Doug Ireland
Naomi Klein
Dan Labotz
Joanne Landy
Mark Levitan
Hal Leyshon
Nelson Lichtenstein
Gretchen Lipow
Michael Lowy
Selma Marks
Warren Montag
Kim Moody
Martin Oppenheimer
Grace Paley
Christopher Phelps
Katha Pollitt
Charles Post
Richard Roman
Edward Said
Juliet Schor
Ellen Schrecker
Walt Sheasby
Jack Stuart
Jerry Surh
Merry Tucker
Gary Vogan
Kit Wainer
Immanuel Wallerstein
Rodney Ward
Jon Weiner
Cora Weiss
Susan Weissman
Cornel West
Reginald Wilson
Barbara Winslow
Howard Zinn

ATC 105, July-August 2003