Havana was the scene of the â€œfirst congress of the Cuban dissident movementâ€ on May 20-21, 2005. Organized, planned and financed by the United States and the Cuban extreme right in Florida and broadly covered by the media, this meeting did not achieve the expected success and impact. This new provocation elaborated by Washington with the aim of bringing about a reaction by the revolutionary government was a spectacular failure. Though it had a colossal budget, the congress, which was supposed to bring together close to 360 â€œdissidentâ€ organizations, each one comprising thousands of activists according to organizers, was barely able to draw a hundred people with deep internal divisions as a backdrop. Furthermore, the meeting took place without any intervention by Cuban authorities, even though during the weeks leading up to the gathering the â€œdissidentsâ€ had denounced repressive maneuvers that never happened.1
The United States Congress itself participated in the staging of this meeting. In effect, a House subcommittee passed a resolution supporting the Assembly for the Promotion of Civil Society (APCS) of Martha Beatriz Roque, controversial president of the rally.2 Further, the U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), provided a budget of $6 million to the extremist Miami organization, Grupo de Apoyo a la Democracia, in order to help finance the gathering.3
The â€œdissidentâ€ demonstration was able to proceed without incident and in the presence of several foreign diplomats and journalists, which contradicts the allegations of government repression. So it is that the ambassadors of Poland and the Czech Republic participated in the meeting. Forming part of the strategy of destabilizing Cuban society orchestrated by Washington, Roque’s organization also included among its affiliates the tiny Miami terrorist group, Alpha 66, responsible for several bloody attacks on the Cuban population.4
Several other â€œdissidentâ€ organizations strongly criticized the meeting held by Roque. For example, Yacel Benitez, representative of a homosexual movement, stated that â€œthis assembly is to raise money for [Roque] to live on and not to overthrow the Castro regime.â€5 Oswaldo PayÃ¡, leader of the Christian Liberation Movement, formally accused Roque of being at the service of the Bush administration and of acting against the interests of the Cuban people: â€œWe will not go to the May 20 meeting because it is a fraud against the opposition.â€6
The small number of participants is illustrative of the world of the â€œdissident movement.â€ Effectively, the United States and the â€œgroups of human rights activistsâ€ at its service want to give the impression of an opposition that is numerous and representative of Cuban society. In reality, the figure announced by Roque of 360 organizations is fictitious, since it turns out that certain people who make up the lucrative â€œopposition businessâ€ headed several associations at the same time and were the only members of these groups.
Luis Posada Carriles, one of the most dangerous criminals in the Western Hemisphere, currently in the U.S., called the congress â€œhistoric and significantâ€ and publicly supported it.7 The international press, strangely complaisant (with some exceptions) about the presence of an individual deeply implicated in international terrorism, did not bother to question the complicity of the U.S. authorities in this scandal.
The European Union, so prone to lending itself to Washingtonâ€™s maneuvers against Cuba, sank into a deafening silence regarding Posada Carriles some weeks after voting against a resolution before the Geneva Human Rights Commission which asks for an impartial UN investigation into the U.S. naval base at GuantÃ¡namo.8 Apparently it is easier to lecture to a besieged island than to respect ethical principles in the face of a hegemonic superpower.
The congress of â€œdissidentsâ€ passed a resolution perfectly aligned with U.S. policy against Cuba. Ninoska PÃ©rez CastellÃ³n, founder of the tiny extremist group, Cuba Liberty Council, said that the common position perfectly matched the expectations of Miami exiles. â€œIt’s fantasticâ€, she declared, since â€œmany things they advocated for in the document are things the exiles have been asking for, for a long time. It is a demonstration that the exiles in Miami are not different than the dissidents in Cubaâ€.9
This confession only illustrates what Cuban authorities have denounced for a long time. The â€œdissidentâ€ groups on the island are no different from the extremist heirs of Batista who advocate terrorist violence and the continuation of economic sanctions against the Cuban people. In reality, they submit themselves to the U.S. government and are completely under the control of James Cason, diplomatic representative of Washington in Havana. The latter, present in order to supervise the smooth staging of the protest, declared he was happy to attend â€œan act of democracy in action.â€10
Even the president of the United States himself sent a video message to the gathering on the outskirts of Havana, in order to congratulate the people who collaborate with his aggressive policies. â€œThe tide of freedom is spreading across the globe, and one day soon, it will reach Cuban shoresâ€, exclaimed George Bush. The attendees enthusiastically applauded the speech of the White House resident, shouting â€œViva Bush!â€11 When speaking of the â€œtide of freedomâ€, perhaps Bush was alluding to that which fell on Afghanistan or Iraq.
Beatriz Roque, who openly said she supported the economic sanctions which strangle the Cuban population, ended the congress declaring her satisfaction for â€œhaving fulfilled [her] duty to [the] nationâ€, which consists of serving Washington’s imperial policies for a few dollars.12 It matters little if that leads to a military invasion of Cuba. Furthermore, she even asked for a return to the democratic traditions in force before the triumph of the revolution, that is to say the bloody Batista regime, as well as the elites who supported him who are now in Florida. Evidently, she also praised capitalism as a development model.13
The international press was offended by the expulsion of several foreign parliamentarians and journalists who came to attend the meeting.14 Nevertheless, it neglected to mention the reasons which led the Cuban authorities to reject the presence of these people. Indeed, around 13 people were expelled due to their illegal activities. Holding only a tourist visa, which prohibits participation in political meetings, they tried to join the congress in violation of Cuban law. This type of incident, which occurs daily, usually passes unnoticed, but enjoys a notable media reaction when it takes place in Cuba. Furthermore, this media manipulation is grotesque since it does not explain why numerous international journalists and political figures were able to attend the â€œdissident movementâ€ event in complete legality.15
So it is that the indignation of variable geometry of the European media lacks credibility and only reinforces the ideological character of its position.16 The media were not scandalized when Switzerland barred anti-globalization activists from its territory or when Spain blockaded nearly 8,000 European citizens on its border during the summit of the heads of state of the European Union in March 2002. Human rights activists who have relations with the Zapatistas are regularly expelled from Mexico without any media reaction. In November 2003, for example, the Aznar government denied a visa to the Cuban vice minister of education, Rodolfo AlarcÃ³n, invited by the Conference of Presidents of Spanish Universities (CRUE).17
It is also appropriate to ask how the French and Spanish governments would react if politicians from Latin America came to support the Basque separatists, for example. At the same time that certain European diplomats claimed they had been denied a visa to go to Cuba, the United States denied entry to its territory to Omar Mora, president of the Venezuelan Supreme Court. The latter, who wanted to go to Washington to request the extradition of Posada Carriles, did not obtain the precious document. In order to justify this, U.S. authorities surreally invoked an antiterrorist law. The news was ignored by the European press.18
The meeting of a hundred people, brought together by the United States with tens of thousands of dollars to protest against the Cuban government, was enough to unleash a state of emergency in the heart of the worldâ€™s editorial boards. At the same time, the protests of thousands of Latin Americans, regularly repressed by violent actions (as in the case of the Brazilian landless workersâ€™ movement, the Argentinean unemployed or the Bolivian miners) qualify, at most, for a miniscule notice in the international press. Nothing is surprising at a time when manipulation of Cuban reality has become a daily obsession.
1 Rui Ferreira, « Grito de â€˜libertadâ€™ de disidentes en Cuba », El Nuevo Herald, May 21, 2005.
2 El Nuevo Herald, « ResoluciÃ³n apoya reuniÃ³n de disidentes », April 21, 2005.
3 Wilfredo Cancio Isla, « Millonaria ayuda para la democracia en Cuba », El Nuevo Herald, May 13, 2005.
4 El Nuevo Herald, « Actividad febril para la reuniÃ³n de disidentes », May 14, 2005.
5 Andrea RodrÃguez, « Disidentes cubanos se preparan para un controvertido congreso », El Nuevo Herald, May 13, 2005.
6 Rui Ferreira, « Expectativa por reuniÃ³n de disidentes en Cuba », El Nuevo Herald, May 20, 2005.
7 Andrea RodrÃguez, « Cuba : Luchas internas y presiÃ³n oficial opacan cita de disidentes », El Nuevo Herald, May 19, 2005.
8 Granma, « UniÃ³n Europea presionÃ³ y votÃ³ en contra de investigar situaciÃ³n situaciÃ³n de prisioneros en GuantÃ¡namo », April 21, 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/abril/juev21/18ginebra.html (site consulted April 22 2005) ; Granma, « Escandaloso voto de UE en Ginebra refleja incapacidad de seguir polÃtica propia », April 22, 2005. www.granma.cu/espanol/2005/abril/vier22/18decla.html (site consulted April 23, 2005) ; Alexander G. Higgins, « ComisiÃ³n de la ONU rechaza pedido de Cuba sobre GuantÃ¡namo », El Nuevo Herald, April 21, 2005.
9 Nancy San Martin, « Castro Foes Outline Reform Vision », The Miami Herald, May 23, 2005.
10 Rui Ferreira, « Grito de â€˜libertadâ€™ de disidentes en Cuba », op.cit.
11 Nancy San Martin, « â€˜A Triumphâ€™ in Cuba as Dissidents Gather », The Miami Herald, May 21, 2005.
12 Andrea RodrÃguez, « Dissidentsâ€™ Havana Organizing Proceeds, Undisturbed », The Miami Herald, May 23, 2005.
13 The Miami Herald, « General Resolution of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba », May 23, 2005.
14 Le Monde, « Lâ€™UE hausse le ton contre Cuba », May 21, 2005.
15 Le Monde, « La rÃ©pression sâ€™intensifie Ã Cuba Ã lâ€™occasion dâ€™un congrÃ¨s dâ€™opposants », May 20, 2005.
16 El Nuevo Herald, « Fustigan la expulsiÃ³n de diputados y periodistas », May 23, 2005.
17 Pascual Serrano, « Esos que se indignan por la expulsiones cubanas », Cuba Debate, May 22, 2005.
18 The Miami Herald, « U.S. Revokes Judgeâ€™s Visa », May 28, 2005.