NS Cuba Statement on "Dissidents" Print

ON RECENT EVENTS IN CUBA
A STATEMENT BY THE NOVA SCOTIA CUBA ASSOCIATION

Halifax, Canada, April 27, 2003

The Nova Scotia Cuba Association (NSCUBA) expresses its resolute solidarity with the Cuban people, the Cuban government and the Cuban Revolution as they defend themselves against the unrelenting and all-sided aggression from the United States.

NSCUBA reaffirms the inalienable right of the people of Cuba - and all other peoples - to determine their future and their political, economic and social system without external interference: a right enshrined in the United Nations Charter, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Co-Operation Among States in Accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.

At this crucial juncture in world affairs and in the face of the massive orchestrated campaign of disinformation, distortions and outright falsehoods, all progressive-minded people - particularly those in the Cuba solidarity movement - must not vacillate in the face of nor conciliate with the concerted efforts to discredit and isolate the Cuban Revolution.

The 75 individuals arrested, tried and sentenced in March/April 2003 have generated hypocritical, hysterical and unfounded vitriolic attacks on Cuba. The 75 persons who were jailed are demonstrably not independent thinkers, writers or human rights activists, but persons directly in the pay of the US government. Contrary to the "conventional wisdom," those who were arrested and tried were "charged not with criticizing the government, but for receiving American government funds and collaborating with U.S diplomats." 1

U.S. diplomats instructed the so-called "independent journalists" on which topics to write, provided them with, among other things, tape recorders and digital cameras and paid them "using a Canadian bank debit card called Transcard."2 Some were even provided with 24-hour access passes to the U.S. diplomatic compound!!

Since 1997 the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has invested more than $20 million US to create and organize an opposition movement.3 In 2002, the U.S. government handed over $8.99 million US to various groups and individuals. For example, one of the defendants, Espinosa Chepe, had received in the course of one year $7, 154 US and had accumulated an additional $13,000 US.4

These individuals were guilty of receiving directives, money, equipment and other resources from a foreign power to engage in activities against their own country.5 Their trials were not "mock" affairs. They were represented by lawyers - 54 in total, with 44 of their own choosing and 10 court appointed - and convicted in 29 separate trials by the overwhelming evidence of their collaboration with the United States government and its associated agencies.

Consequently, the courts handed down appropriate prison sentences ranging from six to twenty-eight years. The acts committed by these individuals are not only in violation of Cuban law, but would be illegal and carry substantial punitive penalties if these same activities had occurred in the United States or Canada. These are the "dissidents" who have been granted unquestioned reputations by the world media as persons of good character, despite the overwhelming evidence of their guilt.

Also, in recent weeks the execution of three of the participants in the April 2, 2003 ferry hijacking drew considerable and disproportionate condemnation. The use of the death penalty was an unfortunate and drastic measure involving weighty reflection by the Cuban courts. The decision to apply the death penalty was not taken lightly or arbitrarily. Cuba, unlike the United States, has applied capital punishment sparingly - Cuban criminal law reserves it for the most serious crimes - and since 2000 had implemented a moratorium. The 10 hijackers used knives and pistols physically threatened passengers. They held knives to people's throats and a gun to one person's head, stating they were prepared to kill them to achieve their objectives. In short, they terrorized the forty women, children and men on the ferry.

The hijackers were convicted at trial, with three of them sentenced to death. The death sentence was automatically appealed to the Cuban Supreme Court, which decided not to commute the sentences. This triggered another automatic appeal of the death sentences to the Cuban government. Following many hours of deliberation, the Cuban government upheld the sentences. Factors in this decision included the seriousness of the crime and the escalation of efforts by Florida based groups to incite further acts of terror and attempts by the U.S. military to instigate an incident which could be used as an excuse for direct acts of aggression against the island.

It is important to note that in recent months there have been seven hijackings using violence and weapons. Four of these hijackings were successful in reaching Florida where U.S. authorities released the hijackers, who now freely walk the streets of the United States – a blatantly hypocritical act, especially in this era of a "war on terror."

In coming to a sound understanding of recent events it is essential to appreciate the present global and historical context. Having witnessed the war waged against Iraq and the complete disregard by US ruling circles for fundamental norms of international law and diplomacy, Cuba is well with in its rights to take the necessary measures by which to defend itself. This is only prudent given the hyper-aggressive military posture of Washington, the history of U.S. aggression - direct and indirect - against the island and the fact that the Bush administration keeps Cuba on its list of rogue states and is even included by some senior Bush officials in the "axis of evil."

Significantly, Hans Hertell, U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, recently stated: "I think what is happening in Iraq is going to send a very positive signal, and it is a very good example for Cuba."6 He further added that the invasion of Iraq was merely the beginning of a campaign whose goal was to ensure all countries implemented a political system acceptable to the U.S.

Moreover, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld declared that Washington would consider military action against Cuba if "weapons of mass destruction" were determined to be on the island. Revealingly, Cuba was added to the U.S. list of countries that allegedly have chemical or biological weapons.7 These charges against Cuba were first fabricated by the Bush administration in 2002 and emphatically refuted by the Cuban government, international experts, former U.S. President Carter and other U.S. officials. However, once again these accusations are being floated as a possible pretext for military aggression.

Therefore, it is clear that Cuba's measures are justifiable acts of self-defense. The island has the right to defend its sovereignty, its independence and its political system.

Indeed, what is being defended is a society with one of the highest indices of social justice in the world and the political base that is the guarantor of these accomplishments. Cuba has and continues to make admirable strides in the social and economic spheres in what are recognized in international law as fundamental and inviolable human rights such as, among others, healthcare, education and social security. It is a country with impressive social indicators that - despite the severe economic crisis of the 1990s - compare very favourably with the developed countries.

Between 1990 and 2000, Cuba reduced its infant mortality rate from 11 per 1,000 births to 6.2 in 2001, placing it in the top tier of countries and first, along with Canada, in the Americas. The Cuban life expectancy of 76 years is one highest in the South.

Moreover, the World Health Organization (WHO) developed the new measure Disability Adjusted Life Expectancy (DALE) - also referred to as healthy life expectancy, augmenting simple life expectancy - as a further means by which to ascertain the quality of life and health. Healthy life expectancy is the number of years that a person can be expected to live in full health. What is of note is that in Latin America and the Caribbean, Cuba, as the WHO notes, "has the highest healthy life expectancy in the region, at 68.4 years, near U.S. levels."

Also, the 1998 and 2001United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization's reports on education in Latin America evaluated the Cuban education system as the best in the region. Likewise, the United Nations Development Program's 2002 Human Development Report places Cuba in the very upper end of medium human development with a Human Development Index (HDI) of 0.795, only 0.005 outside the 0.800 value that qualifies a country for high human development status. Indeed, Cuba has been identified as one of the few countries in which less than 10% of its population is subject to human poverty. In stark contrast, more than 60% of Latin America's population lives in poverty.

All of these advances have been and continue to be achieved by this small, poor country in the midst of a de facto war. Since the triumph of the Revolution in 1959, which overthrew the US-backed police state of Fulgencio Batista, Washington has waged an unceasing assault, both military and economic, against the Cuban people. Washington has organizied an invasion, assassinations, terrorist attacks against civilians, systematic economic sabotage and an economic embargo - in reality an economic blockade - that has persisted for more than 40 years. The underlying goal of U.S. policy is to restore the neo-colonial domination of the island, which was exercised during the first half of the twentieth century. In short, the U.S. endeavours to extinguish the right of the Cuban nation to self-determination and to control its own destiny.


1. Associated Press April 10, 2003.
2. Reuters April 10, 2003.
3. Associated Press April 14, 2003. Also, see the website for the United States Agency for International Development atwww.usaid.gov/regions/lac/cu
4. Associated Press April 10, 2003.
5. New York Times March 31, 2003.
6. Globe and Mail, April 11 2003.
7. The Philippine Star April 24, 2003.