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Posted April 04, 2010 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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Publisher comments: Yes, this title is a bit absurd just as are Alarcon’s ridiculous statements that the US media is to blame for Zapata Tamayo’s death. I guess the story of his death is not going away so they call on the well liked and well respected Alarcon. But, now he has lowered himself to and disrespected himself. Just another step towards the end of the Castro regime?

Latin American Herald Tribune

Cuban parliament speaker Ricardo Alarcon said those who foment a “media campaign” against the communist-ruled island in the United States and Europe are responsible for the recent death of a hunger striker and any other such deaths that may occur.

“I’d say that those who encourage and extol those who have lent themselves to this media campaign against Cuba are responsible for the lives of these people,” Alarcon said in an interview published Saturday by the government Web site Cuba Debate.

He added that the international media also share “responsibility” for the death in Havana on Feb. 23 of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo after an 85-day hunger strike.

Zapata was designated a prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International, although President Raul Castro’s government described him as a common criminal.

Alarcon said the media response to Zapata’s death may have several objectives, including damaging Cuba’s image and its relations with the outside world and trying to “distort the true meaning of the revolution.”

“It’s outrageous to talk about the unfortunate death of Zapata as if it were Cuba’s responsibility. Nobody forced that man to declare himself on a hunger strike,” Alarcon said, adding that the death was “regrettable” and “absurd.”

The speaker of the island’s National Assembly said Zapata “was not a political prisoner” but was adopted by the media as a dissident “when they discovered they could make him an instrument of its campaign.”

“Unfortunately he lost his life,” said Alarcon, who added that the Cuban revolution, which is known for having one of the lowest infant-mortality and highest life-expectancy rates in the Americas, has saved many other lives.

Alarcon said the current “media campaign” against Cuba dates back to the start of the revolution, according to documents that were declassified by Washington in 1991 and which provide evidence of a “covert action program” against the communist-ruled island.

“The foundation of the whole plan is to create an opposition and, secondly, a powerful propaganda offensive to elevate it,” Alarcon said, adding that a portion of the content of those documents remains classified.

“The history of the United States with respect to Cuba is that of an aggressor country that has always tried to crush this nation,” he said.

“Cuba is a small island coveted by the United States dating back to that nation’s founders, who always regarded us as a colony, as a subject,” Alarcon said, adding that that same attitude persists under current President Barack Obama.

Referring to Europe, he criticized a recent European Parliament declaration demanding the release of jailed dissidents on the island.

That declaration was triggered in part by a hunger strike by dissident Guillermo Fariñas, who began fasting more than a month ago – after Zapata’s death – to pressure the government to release 26 ailing political prisoners.

“Europe’s common position is nothing more than an act of subordination to the Americans and of cowardice,” Alarcon said, adding that “Europe has been and remains a subordinate accomplice to the Americans’ policy against Cuba.”

Referring to Fariñas, the speaker said he has been hospitalized with the consent of his family and is receiving all the necessary medical attention.

Two other dissidents, one of them behind bars, are also on a hunger strike to demand the release of the 26 ailing political detainees.

Cuba’s government says there are no political prisoners on the island, dismissing most dissidents as “mercenaries” in the service of the United States, which has imposed an embargo on the island since 1962.

The opposition, however, puts the number of political detainees at roughly 200. About a quarter of that group, including the late Zapata, have been designated by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience.

An international uproar over the Zapata case prompted Raul Castro, younger brother of Fidel, to take the unprecedented step of publicly expressing regret for the prisoner’s death, though he denied the government bore any responsibility for the tragedy.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on April 07, 2010 by Gringo Cubano with 42 total posts

    Cuba saves the lives of those who obey and do not object.  Lives of those who dissent and disagree with the Communist leadership are worthless?  Sacrificed for the greater good?

  2. Follow up post #2 added on April 07, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Excuse me, but Zapata Tamayo would have been alive and the other imprisoned opposition activists free today, if the US had accepted Raúl Castro’s proposal to exchange them for “the Cuban Five”.
    Such exchanges took place on more than one occasion between East and West Germany during the Cold War.
    In the case Cuba-USA there would be the extra advantage that both countries would get rid of embarrasing cases of highly dubious administration of justice.
    I noticed that the most vehemently opposed to such an exchange are the radical Cuban exile groups in Miami. Those people apparently do not care so much about the fate of the Cuban opposition activists, as they pretend. Alarcón’s statements might not be entirely absurd.

  3. Follow up post #3 added on April 07, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Miguel, you obviously do not know what the Castros are made of, but even worst do not understand that the Cuban dissidents are pacific dissidents in Cuba and the 5 spies were spying in the US. Two completely different scenarios.
    Zapata and the other hundreds of dissidents jailed in Cuba are pacific dissident most of them recognized as prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International. They were not spying for a foreign country or anything like that. Their only crime was to dissent from the Castro Government, and that is severely punished in Cuba.
    On the other hand the 5 spies jailed in the US are Cuban Security Agents and were spying for Cuba, were caught in the act, confessed to it and were convicted accordingly.
    The only fact that you partially agree with Alarcon statement shows your siding with an abusive and human rights repressive regime.
    For the record I’m of Cuban origin but do not live in Miami, I favor the removal of the embargo and health care reform.

  4. Follow up post #4 added on April 07, 2010 by robolucion with 33 total posts

    Why on earth do liberals defend fascist authoritarianism? there is nothing liberal about authoritarianism.

    Since you mentioned the GDR, you would be defending it’s actions if it still existed. You would downplay the abuses, and likely call defectors “escoria”, “gusanos” and all that.

    Spies are not political activists. Putting them on a level plane is offensive. Raul’s “offer” is a political glob of spit. He knows the difference between spies and activists, hence why he offers something to the US that would not fly whatsoever.

    Keep supporting left wing, flag waving nationalism. Funny that you likely abhor US flag waving nationalism, but it’s totally ok in Cuba.

  5. Follow up post #5 added on April 08, 2010 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    You are correct in that the BRD and DDR ( West and East Germany) often exchanged “spies”.  The spies that the West traded were usually MfS (East German State Security ) agents caught in the act and the “Western agents”  that the East traded for them were often no more than DDR citizens that protested against that totalitarian regime with common criminals often thrown in and a lot of money passed to the East.  It was more a win win situation for the East than it was to the West.

  6. Follow up post #6 added on April 08, 2010 by Gringo Cubano with 42 total posts

    Funny we are not seeing comments from pipefitter and MiamiCuban.

    I would love to see more diverse opinions on this web site, more pro-Castro, pro-Cuban government ideas and thoughts, to provide more dialogue & debate.

    Perhaps we can ask Raul to allow some ordinary Cuban citizens who are fully supportive of the Revolution (the doctors, educators, journalists, etc. who support the regime) to have full access to the internet so they can log onto Havana Journal and provide responses to our comments???  What if he opened the internet to all his citizens… wouldn’t they overwhelm the world with pro-Castro opinions and insights?  Wouldn’t the Revolution spread around the world?

  7. Follow up post #7 added on April 08, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo (# 3): In cases of prisoner exchanges the prisoners in question need not at all be of the same cathegory on both sides, as little as of the same number. Take the various prisoner exchanges that have taken place between Israel and the Palestinians.
    So the circumstances that you allege are not strictly relevant to the question. Neither is the question if the Castros are good or bad.
    The Cuban regime may be as bad, as you say, but that does not exclude cynical opportunism on part of some of its adversaries. Hitler was bad, but the Anglo-American bombing of Dresden was nevertheless a crime.
    And for the record, of course I was not thinking of you, when I mentioned extremist exiles in Miami.
    Manfredz (# 5): I think that the German prisoner exchanges was mainly a humanitarian act on part of the West.

  8. Follow up post #8 added on April 09, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    “...exchanges that have taken place between Israel and the Palestinians”. 
    I can understand your point but those cases are completely different that the case we were discussing.
    When Israel and the Palestinians exchange prisoners they are exchanging well that Israelis and Palestinians that for any reason ended up on each other jails.
    This is a completely different scenario and when you put it that way shows that you do not understand the Cuban reality.
    The five guys jailed in the US were Cuban SPIES, they are not the first and would not be the last. The Cuban Security Service has a school to prepare spies to be infiltrated in the US. I personally know somebody that passed that school and worked in the US but returned to Cuba.
    On the other hand the dissidents in Cuba are simple people, you can see their houses, clothing, very few of them have cars if any etc and you can see that they are of very limited means. Maybe they have received some support from outside of the country and I hope they get more because ALL of them had lost their jobs. Remember in Cuba you work with the government or you do not work because everything belongs to the government, so as soon you say something against the government the first thing that happens is that you lose your job.
    I cannot see how the US would be involved in trading Cubans, from different sides of the spectrum, but still Cubans. I can understand that the US may try to trade US spies for Cuban spies but that is obviously not the case here.

  9. Follow up post #9 added on April 10, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo, you are right that the US cannot be said to have a direct obligation to participate in a prisoner exchange, as the prisoners in Cuba are not US citizens. The motive would be only humanitarian – to get those prisoners out – and the US has traditionaly shown much hospitality to Cuban dissidents.

    Your emphasizing of the Cuban Five’s legal guilt is neither precise nor relevant: Among the prisoners, Israel has exchanged for captured Israelis, some were convicted on murder charges.

    My intention is not to advise the US authorities. But when I see Cuban exiles’ organisations and their supporters in the US explicitly agitate against a prisoner exchange, then I must suspect the campaign utility of the prisoners in Cuba given higher priority than their release. And then we are back, where we started: Alarcón may not be entirely absurd.

  10. Follow up post #10 added on April 12, 2010 by manfredz with 464 total posts

    miguel, you are correct, and thats how I would see a Cuban-American exchange.

  11. Follow up post #11 added on May 02, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    O.K. im back, On the subject of Tamayo in Cuba, the majority of ordinary Cubans I talked to say it was a foolish self inflicted waste of life and did nothing to bolster support for prisoners.

  12. Follow up post #12 added on May 02, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    Miguel and Manfredz. Cuban exiles and Cuban dissidents inside Cuba, and lots of average Cubans, me included are against such exchange on the simple basis that the dissidents that are jailed in Cuba are pacific human right activists and the 5 spies that were jailed in the US are that, 5 spies, officers of the Cuban secret services, trained and paid by Cuba to infiltrate a foreign country. In my humble opinion it is very easy to understand that we are talking about two completely different things and that is why Cubans hate to put them on the same basket.
    The first persons that criticized such exchange were the dark spring human right activist jailed in Cuban jails.  Those men have an extraordinarily high moral stature, even while in jail, and knowing that such exchange would liberate them, realized that it was wrong and opted for repudiate it.
    Truly Cuban patriots.

  13. Follow up post #13 added on May 07, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo, when prisoner exchanges (as we have seen in Germany, Israel/Palestine and Colombia) are arranged, it has never been a condition that the exchanged prisoners should be of the same cathegory. It is enough that each of the parties involved want the liberation of some persons held in captivity by the other. That exchanges should be unacceptable, because “our prisoners are bad, and the other’s are good”, has no logic. And what patriotism would the Cuban dissidents show by refusing to be set free through an exchange? Would they not serve their cause better out of prison?

    Concerning “the Cuban Five” you and I had an exchange of views, which interested readers can find among the comments to the article in this journal http://havanajournal.com/culture/entry/cuban-doctors-playing-a-major-role-in-helping-haiti/  (comments ## 22, 26, 41, 42, 56, 57, 58, 59 and 60). I only want to add one observation: Your remarks in your comment #26: “I don’t care if there has been some criticism about the trial of the 5 spies” and “that they had not send information to Cuba [you refer to the fact that there was not presented any evidence that they had provided Cuba with CLASSIFIED information] is actually secondary, but I’m not so sure of that.” Is this the way of discussing a trial? (Should we sanction Lance Armstrong for doping, because “we know how the professional racing cyclists work”?). Reading such remarks one is tempted to conclude that your commitment to human rights is not general. Or that you depend on sources that should be taken with caution.

    Pipefitter, I agree that a suicide is of scarce value as political argument. Obviously the concern for the hunger strikers in Cuba manifested by the government here in Spain is to a great deal motivated by domestic policy. What you might criticise with reason is the sanctions, to which the dissidents were sentenced.

  14. Follow up post #14 added on May 07, 2010 by Yeyo with 411 total posts

    I respectfully disagree with your opinion. Even if that has been done before it does not means that is right. I feel that is wrong to even consider exchanging pacific human right activists jailed for peacefully disagreeing with a dictatorial regime for convicted security officers caught on the act of spying on a foreign country.
    I did not follow the 5 spies’ trials, therefore I cannot argue in regard to whether evidence was made available or not. However I feel that everybody is entitled to a fair trial and truly believe that they had one in a democratic and free society. The 5 spies were represented by well know lawyers and were convicted of spying for a foreign country without license. That is sufficient to me. No such thing happened in the case of the peaceful human rights activist in Cuba they were convicted in summary trials, with completely fabricated evidences.  We Cubans know how the judicial system works in Cuba. Many times judges are told what the verdict and sentences are even before commencing the trials.

  15. Follow up post #15 added on May 15, 2010 by miguel with 41 total posts

    Yeyo, my opinion (which you disagree with) is that the more unjust the sentences on the dissidents in Cuba, the more you should be willing to do to get them out. When you flatly refuse even to consider a prisoner exchange, it follows that you have higher priorities in the case than the liberation of the dissidents. Which priorities, Yeyo?

    That a “free and democratic society” automatically guarantees just court decisions is simply not correct. In all countries we see court decisions of one instance overruled by another instance – one of these must then be unjust.

  16. Follow up post #16 added on May 15, 2010 by pipefitter with 275 total posts

    He doesn’t want them freed for solely political reasons, in that it would probably mean a shot in the arm for the Cuban government moral wise.

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