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Posted September 30, 2007 by publisher in Oswaldo Paya

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Cuban dissident has right idea about freedom

South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

The Castro regime likes to ridicule Washington, and Cuban-Americans in South Florida, for trying to “dictate” democracy to Cubans.

Cubans on the island, indeed, should be the ones to decide their future. Which is why now is as good a time as any for Havana to permit Cubans broader opportunities and avenues for participation in public debate about government and politics.

Such a request has been made, again, by a leading dissident on the island. Oswaldo Payá last month issued the call for “freedom of expression, respect for diverse opinions existing in society and access by all citizens and opinions to mass media.”

Mind you, he’s not calling for a much-needed transformation of the Cuban government. He’s not calling for a “radical” change, such as free elections or a capitalist economy.

Instead, it seems a very reasonable and measured demand — simply allowing people to speak freely, and to be heard.

The right to free thought, speech and discussion are very human needs, and ones that people all over the world enjoy. But not in Cuba, where it’s seen as subversive.

Therein lies the problem. Because it is subversive.

If people in Cuba were allowed to speak up, they would openly question the way their government operates, its inefficient and broken economic system, and the lack of individual freedoms. More importantly, they would question whether a dictatorial form of government is necessary to provide the advancements in medical care and education that the government claims to have made in the past 50 years.

Funny, for a government that claims to be the revolutionary standard for the non-comformists in the world everywhere, it sure gets very edgy and testy whenever someone on the island asks for as basic a right as the opportunity to be heard.

Sure, Washington could actually help Payá and others by lifting unwise travel restrictions to the island. But needed change in Cuba can’t happen until the government relents on even the most simple demands.

BOTTOM LINE: Not even this much?

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