This issue of the Cuba Europe Dialogue is dedicated to the 55 Prisoners of Conscience and Oscar Biscet González, who have remained incarcerated in deplorable conditions for over five years now for doing nothing more than exercising their civil rights. When they were arrested in March 2003, they became the latest examples of extreme injustice in a country where there are hundreds of other political prisoners. In March 2003, while much of the world fixated on the start of the US led invasion of Iraq, Fidel Castro launched a massive crackdown against his opponents thinking it would go unnoticed. Yet, Castro was wrong and the events have deeply affected relations between the EU and Cuba for the last several years.
For this issue, it seemed best to have the dissidents speak for themselves, rather than being spoken for by those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to write and demonstrate without the fear of being jailed for twenty years. There are reflections, analysis and opinions from leaders who represent the different threads of the opposition – independent journalists, librarians and trade unionists, as well as an interview with Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, founder of the Christian Liberation Movement and the Varela Project. It is an honor to be able to publish their work, since it is still impossible for them to do so in Cuba.
As for voices from the EU, this issue offers Pavla Holcova’s article that explains how the repression has simply moved out of Havana to the eastern parts of the island that receive less international media coverage. Portuguese MEP Jose Ribeiro e Castro gives us his policy recommendations for the Council’s approaching review of the Common Position in June. And, the Cuba-Europe NGO Network presents a photo-essay of the events and actions taken to mark the fifth anniversary of the Black Spring across Europe.
It is indisputable that the Cuban regime continues to oppress all forms of political dissent. The recent flurry of reforms announced by Raul Castro since becoming president may make it seem as if things are changing quickly, but they are not in any real way. Raul is trying to buy time by reducing the pent up frustrations of the Cuban people to consolidate his own power to establish some degree of legitimacy. Despite all of this, the possibility for systemic change in Cuba is greater than it has been for nearly 20 years. Cuba’s heroic dissidents have more than proven how much they are willing to sacrifice to make sure that these changes happen. The question now is how much will the rest of the world sacrifice for them?