Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. -

March 18, 1999


HAVANA - The diplomatic seat with which the politically incorrect Working Group of Four had the most difficulties in this capital city was the Canadian Embassy. In January 1999 the four dissidents tried in vain to meet with visiting Canadian Chancellor Lloyd Axworthy. His apparent lack of interest presumably did not prevent Axworthy from receiving a letter they sent him. When Vladimiro, Marta Beatriz, René and Félix sent an appeal to foreign investors they met with a similar lack of interest.

I am not sure if it was this document or some other that they could not personally deliver to the ambassador. They had to hand it to a lesser functionary at the diplomatic seat.

The friction between the "Grupo de los Cuatro" (Group of Four) and the Canadian functionaries was so evident that when I was interviewed January 30, 1997 by a Canadian journalist, I suggested that he should contact my cousin Vladimiro Roca before leaving the country. I said he would then learn about the disagreement between Los Cuatro (the Four) and Canada. (I had been detained January 21 and 22, 1997 and Chancellor Axworthy only learned about it thanks to Reuter's journalist Frances Kerry's questions during a press conference.)

The journalist failed to make contact and he may have lamented his neglect after the detention of "Los Cuatro" on July 16, 1997.

Subsequently, when Prime Minister Jean Chretien visited Cuba on April 1998, his intercession in favor of having the Cuban government free "Los Cuatro" was significant. I remember that on the day of Chretien's arrival, a foreign journalist accredited in La Habana called me from his cellular phone on the way to the airport. He asked me if I thought it possible the Prime Minister would be interested in "Los Cuatro's" fate. I said I doubted it, and briefly recounted the antecedents.

In May of 1998 I visited my cousin Vladimiro at Ariza Prison in Cienfuegos, 180 miles (300 kilometers) from the capital, and I repeated the above observations. Vladimiro said Canada should not be indifferent to their detention because above all it was one of the most democratic nations of the world, where individual liberties are well respected.

Now the particulars are known: The trial was held behind doors after Cuba held the accused 19 months in jail and the opposition and the independent journalists were arrested to block them from approaching the location of the trial. Now, after the national press completed its slander campaign against the politically incorrect group, and since the announcement of the sentence on March 15, the world has seen the strong reaction of the Canadian government and media.

Canada is Cuba's most important commercial partner, the main provider Of tourists and its principal investor. This negative kind of reaction was not anticipated by the Cubans. Up to now the Canadians have been condescending with the Castroists. Focusing on tourism and business, the Canadians have overlooked politics and human rights.

Maybe that explains why some time ago a tourist from Montreal told me: "Our thing is to come on vacation to Cuba and enjoy the beaches and the sun."

Tania Quintero, Cuba Free Press.

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