]]]]]]]]]         FIDEL CASTRO AND HUMAN RIGHTS:     [[[[[[[[[[[[[ 
                         30 years later               (12/18/1988)
                     By Ricardo Bofill Pages
     From The Wall Street Journal, 16 December 1988, p. A15:3

  (Mr. Bofill, a former professor at the University of Havana, is
president of the  Havana-based Cuban Committee  for Human Rights,
which  he helped  found  in 1976.   He  spent 12  years  in Cuban
prisons because of his statements on human rights.)

          [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   Earlier  this month,  while  the world  commemorated  the 40th
anniversary of the  Universal Declaration of  Human Rights, Fidel
Castro  began preparing  to celebrate  30 years  of revolutionary
power in  Cuba.  Soviet leader  Mikhail Gorbachev unintentionally
pointed out  the great gap  in meaning that  exists between these
two anniversaries in his speech to the United Nations last week.
   After making  several respectful  references to  the Dec. 10th
anniversary  of  the  Human  Rights  Declaration,  Mr.  Gorbachev
announced: ``The  most fitting  way for  a state  to observe this
anniversary of  the Declaration [of  Human Rights]  is to improve
its domestic conditions for  respecting and protecting the rights
of its own citizens.''   He then described steps  he is taking to
create  a new  legal  framework within  which  these human-rights
covenants will be protected.  However superficial those steps may
end up being in the long run, Mr. Gorbachev's public appreciation
of  the human-rights  declaration stood  in contrast  to Castro's
continuing dismissal of any effort to  do the same in Cuba.  This
dichotomy in the Communist world has precedents.
   A few  years before  Castro's triumphal  arrival in  Havana on
Jan. 1, 1959,  the slow process of  de-Stalinization began in the
Soviet Union.   The 20th Congress  of the Communist  Party of the
Soviet Union cracked  open the door for  the first time, exposing
the massive political crimes of  the Stalinist era.  But in March
1959, Soviet  state security  advisers began  to arrive  in Cuba,
thanks to Anibal Escalante, the  KGB's point man in Havana.  This
advance  team  became  the  first  substantial  step  toward  the
introduction on the island of a blueprint of society based on the
classical formulas of the Stalinist police state developed in the
Soviet Union and its Eastern European orbit.
   Once the first Soviet  ``development technicians'' trained the
repressive forces of Fidel Castro in ``the Resources of Method,''
the Cuban  leader saw himself  in possession  of a transcendental
weapon that to  this day has  squashed every effort  at reform or
political  change in  the country.   The notion  was to  find and
create guilt among the entire population.  Since nobody's perfect
(a  truth which  Communist ideology  denies, but  which Communist
leaders apply religiously), everybody  is guilty of something and
anyone, therefore,  is subject  to arrest  at any  moment.  ``The
Terror'' began to intrude upon every facet of national life until
it reached  the very  bosom of  the Cuban  family.  It  created a
polar  climate   chilled  to  the   bone,  placing   on  stage  a
Neo-Cartesian drama -- ``I do not think, therefore I survive'' --
that the majority of the Cuban  people have been forced to suffer
ever since.
   None of the Soviet efforts to dismantle Stalinism have meant a
tinker's  damn  to the  Cuban  political  hierarchy.  Khruschev's
de-Stalinization efforts were  never reflected in  Cuba's role as
exporter  of  this  KGB  technology   to  the  Third  World;  the
neo-Stalinism  of  Brezhnev  was  useful  to  the  goals  of  the
Castroites; and Gorbachev's policies  of glasnost and perestroika
have been summarily rejected by Cuba's Maximum Leader.
   Thirty  years  after  Castro  arrived  to  power,  the  nation
continues to live  under a system  that attempts to  close to all
its citizens every access to thought that is unorthodox or out of
tune with official liturgy.  More than  a quarter of a century as
a maximum ideological  mentor has convinced  Fidel Castro that he
holds a monopoly  on truth.  On  the eve of  1989, Havana's Senor
Presidente aspires  to a reign  of political  unanimity on earth,
and  it  does  not  matter  if  this  unanimity  applies  only to
tombstones.
   Given  such  realities,  one can  imagine  Castro's  scorn and
irritation at the current  universal sensitivity about violations
of  human rights.   For many  years, Castro's  revolution enjoyed
absolute   impunity   before    international   public   opinion.
Atrocities against  human rights  and fundamental  liberties that
take place  on the largest  island in the  Caribbean were largely
ignored:
   The   massive  executions,   through  secret   trials  without
procedural  safeguards of  any  type; the  disappearances  of the
mortal remains of executed  political opponents; the imprisonment
of hundreds  of thousands  of opponents,  either through kangaroo
courts that  did not  even provide  defendants with  attorneys or
through the  so-called ``files  of the  socially dangerous;'' the
tortures,  the cruel  and  degrading treatment,  and  the inhuman
living conditions  that officially  became known  as ``The Secret
War of Extermination of Every  Form of Deviation or Resistance to
the  Cuban  Governmental  Ideology;''  the  implacable  religious
persecution;  the discrimination  -- apartheid-style  -- enforced
for reasons of political opinion  or religious belief; the denial
of freedom of  movement and the  forced exile of  Cubans who live
abroad;  the  total  disappearance   of  freedom  of  speech,  of
assembly, of peaceful association, of  union rights, and of every
civil and political right that are the bases of modern society.
   These  are  all  part  of the  catalogue  of  crimes  of Fidel
Castro's Cuba  that the  international community  began to notice
only a  few years  ago.  The  ignorance of  many, and  the silent
complicity of others, made possible  a net balance of victims and
a  much greater  catastrophe than  would have  been true  had the
cries for help been listened to much earlier.  Although a part of
the truth  about the  human costs of  Castroism have  begun to be
known, there still are  few places where a  just analysis of this
critical period in the existence of Cuban society can be heard.
Recently, some specialized human-rights delegations visited Cuba,
including executives of  Americas Watch, the  Committee for Human
Rights of the Bar of the City of New York, Amnesty International,
the  International Red  Cross and  the  U.N. Commission  on Human
Rights.    But  by   examining  the   reports  prepared   by  the
aforementioned first three  organizations, it is  clear that they
have done  little more than  scratch the surface  of the national
reality of this subtropical island.
   Unlike  other  countries  examined   by  these  groups,  in  a
Stalinist state there is no access to any independent information
about the government; there are  no religious groups that monitor
human-rights  abuses,  there  is  absolutely  no  history  of any
independent press,  there are no  international journalists based
in the country, etc.  It is difficult for foreigners just arrived
and without any experience in the context of Stalinist structures
to obtain adequate information  that would permit the formulation
of responsible opinions.
   Thus,  on  the  eve  of  1989,  when  we  celebrate  the 200th
anniversary of the French Revolution,  and when the leader of the
Soviet Union  dazzles the world  with his message  of hope before
the U.N.,  Cuba's Fidel  Castro remains  securely beholden  to an
order of things already condemned  by history.  And yet the ideal
of  human  rights  --  the  most  progressive,  revolutionary and
popular ideal of  our times --  will make its  home on Cuban soil
eventually.
                            *     *     *


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