The Nassau Guardian | By TAMARA McKENZIE Guardian Staff Reporter
United States Ambassador J. Richard Blankenship said Tuesday that the political system of Cuba is bankrupt and its leadership has lost all credibility in the eyes of the international community.
Mr. Blankenship spoke at the Rotary Club of Freeport about “the growing gulf between countries like The Bahamas and Cuba’s anachronistic regime.” He also taled about the recent acts of violence in Cuba that led to the arrests of 75 dissidents who were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison.
The dissidents comprised of independent librarians, economists and political opponents of Fidel Castro’s government, accused of collecting signatures for the Varela Project, a petition calling for democratic reforms on the island. Others were said to write articles for the Internet news services outside of Cuba. These individuals were convicted during one-day trials for working with U.S. diplomats to undermine Castro’s government.
Some independent journalists were accused of spreading of false news to satisfy the interests of the U.S. government.
Ambassador Blankenship said the persons arrested only sought freedom of speech and assembly, the freedom to express a political opinion and the right to peacefully dissent. He said the international community and other human rights organisations have responded to and denounced the arrest of prisoners of conscience, but Castro has sought to turn all logic on its head, by cynically attempting to shift the blame for his actions to the United States.
“Cuba’s Foreign Minister, Perez Roque, and numerous Cuban diplomats around the world, have asserted that the Cuban government was responding legitimately to subversion orchestrated by the U.S. government,” said Ambassdor Blankenship.
According to the U.S. Ambassador, Cuban officials posted in The Bahamas have taken advantage of the free press and have “spilled a lot of ink, offering ludicrous statements attempting to defend the indefensible political persecution in Cuba with a combination of distortions, bombastic rhetoric and outright lies.”
Mr. Blankenship said the United States outreach to a hopeful and valiantly struggling Cuban civil society, for years has been no different from actions that diplomats routinely carry out in countries around the world, including Cuba. He additionally stated that support for democratic reform is a fundamental principle of U.S. foreign policy and will remain so.
The U.S. Ambassador explained that the U.S. has no designs on Cuban sovereignty, but it does support peaceful, democratic reform. He said that they firmly believe that the Cuban people have a right to choose their own government to express their political belief freely and to create independent civil society organisations without fear of arrest or prosecution.
Mr. Blankenship said that for more than 40 years, Fidel Castro supported by a corrupt party apparatus, ruled Cuba as his personal fiefdom. He said Castro has held onto power by creating a pervasive security apparatus that has crushed all opposition to his will within Cuba and attempted to destroy the dignity of the Cuban people by inducing them to spy and inform on each other.
The people of Cuba, according to the U.S. Ambassador, have lived in fear for more than 40 years, but such fear is an “absurd anachronism” and the entire international community needs to stand up and condemn it.
Mr. Blankenship said that regardless of the fear the Castro may instill in others, the right course is to aid the cause of democracy in Cuba, by making it clear that political repression has no place in the hemisphere, the modern world, nor the international community.
“We are pleased to see that the international community did the right thing by adopting a resolution on the human rights situation in Cuba at the recently concluded UN Human Rights Commission, which was introduced by its Latin American neighbours, Peru, Cost Rica and Uruguay,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Cuban Consul General in The Bahamas, Felix Wilson, at a press conference on April 14, said Cuba has lost $70 billion over the past 44 years because of the existing United States embargo and other “terrorist” acts staged by the United States government.
Mr. Wilson said that reports of the 75 individuals arrested in Cuba have been heavily “distorted,” as the U.S. views Cuba as a country that does not respect the right for due process, without a legal system. “Cuba is a country that has constitutions and a right by its U.N. Charter to fight for its sovereignty or independence and we have the right to take measures to guarantee stability and security,” he said.
Mr. Wilson further stated that it is his opinion that the U.S. or any nation in the Western world should not be entitled to make judgments about Cuba’s internal affairs, when there is so much going on in the world.
“We just want our country to be seen as another country that has the right to fight for independence for its sovereignty and this is what we are doing and we will continue to abide by the U.N. Charter to build the kind of society one chooses to defend itself against any foreign attempt to destabilize it,” said Mr. Wilson.
The Cuban Consul General charged at the time that Cuba does not interfere with the problems of other countries and respects others and international institutions and only demands such respect in return.
“Nobody can think that Cuba will sit down and wait for the U.S. to topple our government. We will never allow that to happen,” said Mr. Wilson.