By Eric Gremillion | The Reveille (Louisiana State U.)
(U-WIRE) BATON ROUGE, La.—We live in crazy times. The SARS virus continues to spread throughout the world, uncertainty of the future of Iraq looms over the heads of our nation’s leaders, and the peace in the Middle East hopefully finds its delicate beginnings in a new Palestinian prime minister who does not sponsor terrorism. Compound this with the serial killer situation and ever-present fear of another terrorist attack, and the result is a very concerned population.
But if we look south of Louisiana we can find one of the most obscene and disconcerting displays of human rights violations in recent memory. Saddam Hussein isn’t the only dictator who curtails the basic human rights of his people.
On March 13 passengers hijacked a state-owned passenger plane en route to another Cuban island and directed it to the United States, where it landed in West Key, Fla. The six hijackers were arrested and will face charges but have been granted the right to post bond. It is clear that the ambition of the hijackers was simply to defect to the United States.
Since the March 13 hijacking many other Cubans have tried to overtake transportation vessels in an attempt to get to the United States. On April 11, three men were executed for hijacking a ferry in order to flee to the United States. The ferry ran out of fuel and was forced to turn around, where the hijackers were arrested.
Not one to let an opportunity pass by him, Fidel Castro has used the new umbrella of the terrorist label to justify his actions against political dissidents. Castro frequently has called the hijackings instances of terrorism and the hijackers active participants in the “terrorist mafia.”
Now he accuses the United States of aiding such “terrorists.” According to Fox News, Castro said “the arrest of various dozens of mercenaries who betrayed their homeland for privileges and money from the United States, and the death penalty for common criminals ... were the result of conspiracy stirred up by the government of (the United States) and the terrorist mafia.”
Castro believes the United States encourages Cubans to flee north because the U.S. government allows those who arrive to stay and has accused U.S. Interests Section Chief James Cason of conspiring with dissidents and inviting them into his official residence. Castro said the executions and lengthy jail terms were necessary because actions like those of the dissidents “must be yanked out by the roots.”
And he’s yanking pretty hard. In addition to the executions, in recent months 75 dissidents have faced sentence terms ranging from six to 28 years, according to Fox News.
Now most of this occurred while the United States pursued its war with Iraq, so the international community had its back turned when the executions and sentences were carried out. Finally the world is looking with scrutiny at Cuba and its deplorable (and now newly invigorated) human rights record.
Cuba’s leader must face repercussions for such a blatant disregard for human rights. It is up to the international community to not only denounce these actions but to extract from Castro some sort of reassurance that blatant violations like the April 11 executions do not occur again.
Besides, Castro should be shaking in his boots. He may not be a target of Bush’s War on Terrorism, but he certainly is a ruthless dictator with a government unpopular among its people.