Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

February 27, 1999.


HAVANA - Although most Cubans pay no heed to the new Cuban law on human rights, many people who keep track of such matters reacted immediately.

The response from independent journalists and government critics in Cuba included a statement by Raúl Rivero, director of the Cuba Free Press agency, calling the law "uncivilized and draconian." The leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, Oswaldo Payás Sardiñas, compared it with "a boot that attempts to crush the democratic aspirations of the Cuban people."

Different press organizations throughout the world have also expressed their condemnation. In a letter addressed to Fidel Castro, the Inter-American Press Society complained that the freedom of expression and press were curtailed in the name of national security.

As requested by Fidel Castro, the Cuban National Assembly of the People's Power on Feb. 16 unanimously adopted the new law violating basic human rights under the name, "Law of Protection of the National Independence and Sovereignty of Cuba."

Most citizens in this capital could give no information on the new law. Today's Cubans possess an incredible ability to alienate themselves from their surroundings.

Many have tried to follow the news being offered about this modification of the Penal Code, a matter that virtually monopolized the attention of the government media. But very little is known about this law, which contemplates severe punishment for those who send or receive information from abroad.

Only a very small sector of the Cuban population - including the dissidents - shows concern for the strong threats in the new legislation, already christened as the "Titanic Law." The politically incorrect could end up in jail for a period of up to 30 years and the law makes obvious references to them: independent journalists and internal dissidence activists.

Fear, concern, indignation and sleeplessness are the noticeable symptoms among members of the peaceful organizations defending human rights and the small independent press agencies. Seemingly, the government seeks to wipe out the civil society blossoms of recent times by radicalizing itself, hyperbolically.

The law, said to be similar to those of the closed Muslim countries, outlaws the delivery of information with aims that might serve "the Helms-Burton law, the 'blockade,' the economic war, subversion and other activities that damage or endanger the sovereignty, integrity or independence of the state."

It equally penalizes "the introduction, reproduction or diffusion…of subversive materials and the collaboration, direct or through third parties, with radio and television broadcasting stations, newspapers, magazines or other massive diffusion media" that criticize the regime. It also punishes "the organization or participation in meetings or demonstrations, or solicitation, donation, distribution or furnishing of material and financial resources."

The different chapters of the ordinance outlaw virtually anything coming from the United States - or elsewhere - that might relate to or smell like opposition to the government.

The law says its reach is not limited to the dispositions, regulations or measures that the United States government might adopt. It also condemns whoever collaborates with a third state that collaborates with the United States' government's aggressive aims.

What can be glimpsed as the most intense repressive wave in years has its antecedents in the "battle against crime" decreed by the authorities in mid-1998. The measures to hold back delinquency, which was thriving in the streets, were secretly manipulated by the police to form part of a broader plan, in which the Office of State Security (Seguridad del Estado) plays a leading role.

Many dissidents envision the law complementing a "sinister ('macabro') project" that seeks to impose a tough hand in the style of the early years of Castro's revolution.

Some also see the law as another refusal of the Cuban government to allow the slightest rapproachment with the United States. When the Clinton administration announced a new line of flexibility in its policy toward Cuba, Havana screamed aloud and with persecution delusions and characteristic hysteria again brought off from the shelves the sterile shield that has always protected it. These include the nationalist praises and the misleadingly patriotic, rigid and impractical discourse.

The climate existing in Century's End Cuba is not the one that the international community expected. More repression and more jails are not a good omen for the newly begun year of 1999. With an Ibero-American Summit planned to be celebrated here in November and the possible visit of the King and Queen of Spain, few could have foreseen this schizophrenic attitude in the government of the island.

In the meantime the question of the moment is: What is going to happen?

Tania Quintero, a colleague from this agency, says this item that you are now reading might well be one of the last dispatches delivered by us correspondents. Nobody knows where we will wake up tomorrow. The law is a destructive iron mass. But it could also sink, like another Titanic did.

Ariel Tapia, Cuba Free Press.

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