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Posted June 18, 2003 by publisher in Castro's Cuba

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LESLIE PAPP | STAFF REPORTER | [url=http://www.thestar.com]http://www.thestar.com[/url]

U.S. aggression is ultimately to blame for Cuba’s much-criticized crackdown on dissidents, the country’s ambassador to Canada says.

“We’re threatened by the United States,” Carlos Fernandez de Cossio Dominguez told the Star’s editorial board yesterday. “The day we have peace, Cuba will be very different than it is today.”

In March, Cuban authorities lashed out at internal critics — arresting 75 dissidents — subjecting them to quick trial and to sentences of up to 28 years.

Three men were executed on April 11 for hijacking a ferry and trying to sail to the United States. They were tried, appeals were denied, and they were shot by a firing squad all in less than a week.

The haste of that execution, and the arrest of dissidents, including journalists, has generated outrage from observers as diverse as Amnesty International, which attacked Cuba’s “repressive legal system,” and the European Union, which scaled back meetings with Cuban officials.

In Canada, Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham has called for an international condemnation of Cuba’s actions.

Dominguez argued the crackdown is a matter of self-defence, given a U.S. leadership that has become aggressive after terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, and elsewhere.

“Do you think we did this because we enjoy the media attention? ...the threat is the United States. In the past few months they’ve proven they’re ready to take military action anywhere, any time.”

He insisted that the 75 arrested dissidents were part of a U.S.-funded opposition dedicated to promoting “intervention” by Washington.

As for the three tried and executed in less than a week, Dominguez asked: “Which is the correct way? An O.J. Simpson trial that lasts forever?”

“Amnesty International ... doesn’t have a monopoly on the truth,” he added, noting the 75 were not punished for dissent but as an illegal, foreign-paid opposition.

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