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Posted January 22, 2006 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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By ANITA SNOW | Associated Press

Original title: Walesa to Cuba Dissidents: Be Prepared

Former Polish President Lech Walesa advised Cuban dissidents to be ready for an inevitable democratic transition, telling them Saturday that activists in his country had been unprepared for the collapse of East European communism.

The former Solidarity labor leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate took questions from Cubans during a morning Internet teleconference at the home of the top American diplomat in Havana.

“When liberty arrives it’s going to be difficult,” Walesa said from Poland during the hour-long exchange, his image beamed on a projector screen set up in a salon. “We made a lot of errors. We were not prepared.”

image Cuban activist Martha Beatriz Roque reacts during a teleconference with former Polish President Lech Walesa, pictured onscreen at right, in the residence of U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly in Havana, Cuba, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2006. Former Solidarity labor leader and Nobel Peace prize laureate Walesa advised Cuban dissidents to prepare for an inevitable democratic transition, telling them Saturday that activists in his country were not ready for the collapse of East European communism. (AP Photo/ Javier Galeano)

The Cuban government maintains that there will be no such transition on the island, and that the current economic and political systems will remain after 79-year-old Fidel Castro is gone.

Castro and other Cuban authorities have criticized a U.S. presidential commission report detailing how American aid can be used to promote a democratic transition on the island, calling it a thinly veiled blueprint for regime change.

About 100 people attended the event, including around a dozen of Cuba’s better-known dissidents, diplomats from Poland and other East European nations and international journalists.

The Cuban government, which has grown increasingly critical over the past year of former East European nations that offer moral support to Cuban dissidents, did not immediately comment on the event.

The meeting at the home of U.S. Interests Section chief Michael Parmly came days after U.S. officials hooked up an electronic sign to broadcast human rights messages along the side of the American mission.

Poland was an ideological ally of Cuba before the breakup of the former Soviet Union and subsequent collapse of communism across eastern Europe.

“For me, for many Cubans, you are a symbol of liberty, of liberty, of the defense of the rights of man, a courageous leader,” the independent Cuban journalist Angel Polanco told Walesa.

Martha Beatriz Roque, a former political prisoner, told Walesa that more than 330 prisoners of conscience are held in Cuba.

“They have paid a very high price for liberty in Cuba,” Roque said. She was the only woman among 75 government opponents arrested in a crackdown on the opposition in March 2003. She and 14 others have been paroled for medical reasons.

The rest are serving sentences of up to 28 years on charges of being mercenaries who worked with Washington to undermine Castro’s system ” allegations they and U.S. officials deny.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on January 22, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Without supporting nor rejecting Martha Beatriz Roque cause, I would like to propose this question:

    Say Castro regime change supporter Martha Beatriz Roque was Martha Smith (ficticious character) Bush regime change supporter going to the Iranian Embassy in Washington DC to listen to Osama Bin Laden give her a pep talk to motivate her to continue her fight against the regime.

    What do you think would happen to Marth Smith? What do you think would happen to the Iranian ambassador?

    The fact that Castro has not forced the closure of the US Interests section in the Swiss Embassy in Havana is interesting. The fact that the Cuban government lets a Cuban citizen receive open support from the United States is interesting as well.

    Now, of course I am not advocating that Castro take action against these people. I am simply opening for debate the question of why he allows these acts of treason, yes, treason, to take place openly in Cuba.



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  2. Follow up post #2 added on January 23, 2006 by Cubana with 282 total posts

    Publisher: your comments are out of order. In no way can Martha Beatriz Roque going to the US Interests Section to listen to Lech Walesa be called treason. FACT: Osama Bin Laden is a self-confessed terrorist while Martha Beatriz Roque advocates a peaceful change in her country from a totalitarian regime to a democratic one. US citizens can change the Bush government at the next US election - Cubans have no such right.


  3. Follow up post #3 added on January 23, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Maybe be a bit out of order but it is still treason in Cuba yet she continues to be free AND get support from the “enemy”, the United States.

    Also, my question remains, Is Michael Parmly aiding the dissidents to overthrow the Castro regime. The answer is a very clear, yes.

    I just posted the story about Castro calling for a march outside the Embassy. Maybe enough is enough with the un-diplomatic, unproductive efforts of the US Interests section in Havana.



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  4. Follow up post #4 added on January 23, 2006 by jesusp with 246 total posts

    Dissent is not treason, having said that, no person of sane mind can argue that the U. S. has been a friend of Cuba for the past 45 years, arguably, since the establishment of the Republic. If we accept this premise, then it can be said that aligning oneself to the position of U. S. policy towards Cuba is not a dissenting position in line with Cuba’ interests.


  5. Follow up post #5 added on January 24, 2006 by ElaineMiami

    Things need to be kept in perspective.  First, every country has its dissidents, so its no surprise that Cuba should have its share as well.  (And the 330 dissidents the article mentions doesn’t seem proportionately large to me).  We have our own dissidents here in the USA and these numbers are steadily growing as the current administration tries to intimidate or silence those who oppose its policies.  Its very easy to tout our “liberty” and “freedom of speech” when we don’t have a super-power in our backyard trying to overthrow us. 


  6. Follow up post #6 added on January 25, 2006 by yumaguy with 176 total posts

    Beatriz Roque is playing in a very dangerous and complex game. I hope she realizes that she is being used as a pawn and if she is not careful, she could end up in a Cuban gulag again, and this time permanently.

    I don’t think the U.S. really cares about Beatriz Roque. If she ends up imprisoned again, the U.S. Interests Section will replace her with someone else.

    The entire point of this strategy is to keep scaring and harrassing the Castro regime and force them to do something stupid like another major crackdown on the dissidents.

    That way, the Bush Admin. can scream about this and try to convince other countries such as Canada or the member nations of the E.U. to isolate/punish the Cuban regime for its bad behavior.

    The Bush Admin. can’t stand that it’ so alone in their Cuba policy and will try absolutely anything to get other countries to cut their economic and/or diplomatic ties with Cuba. . .

    I hope Ms. Roque has the savvy to realize she’ just a small player in this very complex international game who can easily get squished if she gets too aggresive. The truth is, she will be of more use to the U.S. in jail (because the Bush Admin. will scream “Dissident Crackdown!”) than hanging out in the U.S. Interests Section.


  7. Follow up post #7 added on January 25, 2006 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    “Beatriz Roque is playing in a very dangerous and complex game. I hope she realizes that she is being used as a pawn and if she is not careful, she could end up in a Cuban gulag again, and this time permanently.”

    I think the old Cuban exiles and the Bush Administration would cease the opportunity to ramp up their campaign against Cuba should anything happen to her or other dissidents.

    This whole thing could turn into a powder keg and explode in the faces of ALL the players; Bush, exiles, US Interests section, dissidents, Castro etc. No doubt that the US Cuba Embargo policy is a loose loose game so I don’t see any happy ending.

    VERY sad. The US already is loosing the PR war since Europe nor the UN support the Embargo.



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  8. Follow up post #8 added on January 26, 2006 by jesusp with 246 total posts

    Ms. Beatriz Roque would be a lot more believable and her dissent would be seen as much more genuine if she stayed away from Mr. Parmly. The position of Parmly and his associates in Habana is one of hostility and aggression and not one that has resulted in any beneficial change for the people of Cuba, therefore, for a Cuban citizen to be a part of that position is not in line with Cuban interests. One hopes that Fidel does not fall into the trap they are, seemingly, setting up for him.


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