Agence France Presse
HAVANA, May 10 : Prominent Cuban dissidents rejected new US measures aimed at speeding the end of President Fidel Castro’s one-party communist rule, as Cuba promised to take US efforts to destabilize its “legitimate government” to international bodies.
In separate statements Oswaldo Paya, who has spearheaded the Varela Project aimed at forcing economic and political reform from within the current system; Cambio Cubano (Cuban Change) leader Eloy Gutierrez Menoyo; and Elizardo Sanchez Santacruz, who leads the National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation all said they opposed the US efforts including using a US military plane to broadcast pro-democracy messages into Cuba.
US President George W. Bush endorsed the measures in Washington last week.
The United States will also tighten restrictions on Cuban-Americans’ cash remittances to relatives on the island and limit family visits between the United States and Cuba to one every three years, officials said in Washington.
And US funds will be used to spread information worldwide about Washington’s accusations that Havana harbors terrorists, foments subversion in Latin America, and has at least a limited developmental offensive biological weapons research capability, according to the US report.
Goals of the US initiative are to undermine Castro’s plans that his brother Raul Castro succeed him, speed Cuba’s “transition to democracy,” and prepare for what Washington sees as the eventual defeat of Cuban communism, US officials have said.
The US plans “are a hair-raising effort to meddle” in Cuban affairs, Gutierrez Menoyo charged.
Sanchez said the steps would be “totally counter-productive and clearly involved meddling” from abroad.
And Paya insisted “it is not appropriate or acceptable for any force outside Cuba to try to design the Cuban transition process.”
In Washington, Cuba’s top diplomat Dagoberto Rodriguez charged the measures amounted to a “destabilization plan” that Havana plans to report to international authorities.
“We don’t believe this is just a symbolic act to make far right, terrorist Florida Cubans happy. It goes much further than that,” warned Rodriguez, who heads the Cuban Interests Section.
“It is a destabilization plan (against) a legitimate government,” Rodriguez said. “As such Cuba will report it, it already is reporting it, in all international forums and to all the governments in the world.”
“It earmarks tens of millions of dollars to promote economic support for dissidents in Cuba and violates international law in order to broadcast subversive material from an aircraft,” he charged.
The United States has had a comprehensive economic embargo clamped on Cuba, the Americas only one-party communist state, since 1962.
On February 24, 1996, the Cuban air force shot down civilian aircraft with the Florida-based Cuban exile group Brothers to the Rescue, killing all four men on board and sharply raising tensions between the neighboring countries, which do not maintain full diplomatic ties.
Cuba said the planes were in its airspace, although a UN body found they were not.
A Cuban court meanwhile convicted three opposition activists of public disorder, disobedience and resistence and sentenced them to jail terms of between four and five years, a dissident source said.
The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation said in a written statement that the dissidents, jailed since February 2, 2002, were Rafael Corrales Alonso, Ricardo Ramos Pereira and Jose Santana Carrerira.
There are now more than 300 political prisoners in Cuba, according to the commission, a number that surged last April and May in a major crackdown against 75 dissidents who were convicted and sentenced to lengthy jail terms.