Monday, March 28, 2011

Canada’s dilemma on Cuba

To be published on The Epoch Times and Canada Free Press

The recent release of Dr. Oscar Biscet and the two remaining prisoners of conscience from Cuban jails could mark a turning point in the recent history of Cuba.

Detained during the “Black Spring” of March 2003, Dr. Biscet and 74 other members of the opposition movement, were considered as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International, drawing international condemnations, including a common European Union stance against Castro’s regime.

Carefully planned to decapitate Cuba’s growing opposition movement, at a time when the world’s attention was diverted to the outset of the Iraq war, the now infamous crackdown saw dozens of journalists, librarians and human rights activists rounded up, summarily tried and sentenced for up to 28 years in jail.

In Cuba, as is always the case in communist countries, the flow of information is totally controlled by the government. That is more or less the case for locally based foreign media, aware that whatever is reported to their home countries, is closely scrutinized by Cuban censors. However, this time around, the charges of “agents of the USA” on which Dr. Biscet and the rest of the activists were sentenced, somehow didn’t find the usual indifference that the cause of freedom in Cuba normally faces.

Dr. Biscet, a 49-year old medical doctor, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the Prime Minister of Hungary, members of the United States Congress, members of the European Parliament, members of the British House of Lords and members of the Parliament of Canada. Their open letters to the Norwegian Committee (Canadian MP’s requested that their identities not be publicized) outlined the importance of honouring Dr. Biscet, a human rights defender of universal stature, as a way of recognizing his selfless struggle for human dignity.
Dr. Biscet’s story of opposition started earlier in the 80’s, but it wasn’t until 1997 that he really got in the nerves of the government (see for further reference) by conducting a clandestine ten month research study at the Hijas de Galicia Hospital documenting unofficial statistical data on abortion techniques. During this study, many Cuban mothers testified that their newborn babies were killed right after birth, a common practice in hospitals throughout the island. The research study "Rivanol: A Method to Destroy Life," was officially delivered to the Cuban government in June 9, 1998, along with a letter addressed to Fidel Castro accusing the Cuban National Health System of genocide. Needless to say, that was the end not only of his medical career, but also his wife’s as a nurse.
His mere nomination pulverizes the ostracism in which the regime tries to subjugate Cuban dissidents. Further from the regular beatings and the subhuman conditions suffered by Cuban prisoners of conscience, the psychological tortures inflicted upon these men and women include prolonged periods of solitary confinement, the prohibition of literature within the cells and forced separation from their families. The main goal of these tortures is breaking their spirit, and a frequent script used by interrogators and jailers goes: “while you rot in here, life continues outside; and the fact is that in the so called free world, nobody cares whether you live or die.”

By recognizing Dr. Biscet’s struggle, the opposition movement gains the legitimacy that most in the free world have exclusively granted to the regime. Through Dr. Biscet, an embrace of solidarity goes to a whole nation that up to now was accustomed to a world audience mesmerized by the charms of a despot.

Canada’s role

Canada has consistently been a major facilitator of Cuba’ regime survival ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. When it comes to liquidity contribution via trade, investment and tourism, Canada leads the world by providing the cash that the Castro family desperately needs to stay in power. This is the pattern regardless of which party gathers most of the seats in Parliament Hill.

The apparent secret covenant between Canada and the regime, which is common knowledge among human rights activists in Cuba, has also damaged Canada’s reputation internationally. A Toronto Star article published on December 17, 2010, refers that “Canada is one of several countries that has stopped pressuring Cuba on human rights to gain business favours from Havana, according to confidential U.S. diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks”.

With critical events unfolding sooner rather than later, perhaps is about time to realize that turning the back on the people of Cuba and failing to openly denounce this human tragedy will eventually backfire. Canadians should question the risks of dealing with the worst tyranny ever to take hold on the western hemisphere for two reasons:
· Its practicality if the explosive socio-economic context is considered
· The long-term moral consequence of wittingly contributing to prop up a criminal regime in the heart of the Americas.

By Nelson Taylor Sol

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