Cuba's "New Era" Much Like Previous Era

The sinister dictators of Cuba, Fidel and Raul Castro, are getting a fair amount of good press for releasing a handful of political prisoners that committed no crime. A few things to keep in mind, for those celebrating the great “humanitarian gesture”—the one designed to head off Western criticism following the death of hunger strikers. The prisoners, all jailed for "political offenses," were allowed to leave prison provided they left Cuba—the cause for which they have risked their lives—and relocated to Spain. 11 prisoners were released to Spanish authorities, though many others refused to surrender their citizenship in exchange for their freedom. At a press conference in Spain, a small group of recently arrived dissidents urged the European Union to keep pressure on Cuba, noting that “their release was not a gesture of good faith but ‘a desperate action’ by the Cuban government.”

So how were conditions in Cuban prisons? According to this asshole at Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice Institute, the Cuban prison system is "far more humane than Western propaganda would have the uninformed public believe," nor do those lucky enough to be incarcerated "have to pay for their education, medical, dental or hospital care, or any other activities they experience." Imagine not having to fork over your $18 monthly salary for "activities" like beatings and the bi-weekly rotten food buffet!

In an interview with Bloomberg, recently-released prisoner Normando Hernandez Gonzalez explained what was wrong with all of this "Western propaganda" about prison conditions:

“The first month I spent in jail, I only ate eight times because the food they gave us was subhuman and so rotten that if you offered it to a dog, he’d turn away. For refusing to wear prison overalls, I was sent to a dark cell for 101 days without seeing the light of day. There wasn’t a single inch of my skin that wasn’t covered in septic mosquito bites. I was forced to sleep on the concrete floor with rats and cockroaches crawling over me.”

Incidentally, Gonzalez was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his association with the Camagüey College of Independent Journalists.

Miami Herald columnist Andreas Oppenheimer pooh-poohs talk of a “new era” from Cubans held hostage by the Castro brothers:

…[M]ost important, the Cuban regime is not even talking about modifying articles 72 and 73 of its criminal code, an Orwellian legislation that allows it to put people behind bars before they committed a crime on the mere suspicion that they may commit one in the future.

Nor is the regime ready to consider changing its law 88, which allows it to imprison people for writing anything that can be interpreted as critical of the government, or its various laws banning freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to travel within the country or abroad, independent unions, and political parties.

When I asked José Miguel Vivanco, head of the Human Rights Watch advocacy group's Americas department, whether Cuba's latest announcement amounts to a "new phase" in Cuba, he said: "We are obviously very happy for the prisoners and their families, but I am not going to congratulate a government for imprisoning people that shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place."

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  • Warty||

    According to this asshole at Harvard Law School's Criminal Justice Institute

    I love Moynihan's writing.

  • ||

    After reading what asshole had to say in direct contrast to the jailed dissident, I think Moynihan was being quite generous.

  • ||

    But, she's from Harvard. They know everything.

  • ||

    I have done my Ivy league rant on these here pages before, and won't repeat it. But good god, is there ever a quote from these people that doesn't amount to an huge pile of dung?

  • ||

    No.

  • cynical||

    When the revolution comes, just start with a list of Harvard alums.

  • ||

    The asshole's piece was written in 2000, so maybe things have deteriorated. Though her profile says she's represented "numerous political prisoners" as a lawyer, and since she's only licensed to practice law in the US, I think we can guess her view of reality.

  • ||

    I have a very hard time accepting that Cuban prisons were a socialist paradise in 2000 and years prior.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Having been born and raised in Miami, and having known numerous Cuban expats, some of whom were at one point imprisoned, NONE of Cuba was ever anything even remotely close to a socialist paradise. Prisons were hell on earth.

    That Harvard bitch needs to get out of the Ivory Tower and have a chat with real people about what Cuba is really like. Her theoretical bubble apparently is running low on oxygen to write that kind of shit.

  • ||

    Ms. Elijah is responsible for leading the fulfillment, development and expansion of the Institute’s work to address the urgent needs of the powerless, voiceless and indigent in the criminal justice system.

    You're doing it wrong, asshole.

  • ||

    Cuba is Exhibit A for the modern leftist's willing to deny reality and excuse brutality For the Cause.

    Anyone who doesn't condemn the Castro regime as brutal, kleptocratic totalitarians reveals themselves as a complete tool.

    And I put my money where my mouth is. I love cigars, but I won't smoke a Cuban cigar; every time you buy a Cuban cigar, you're putting money in the pockets of Fidel and Raoul. Fuck that.

  • The Gobbler||

    "Anyone who doesn't condemn the Castro regime as brutal, kleptocratic totalitarians reveals themselves as a complete tool."

    But they have the best health care system in the world.

  • LeSigh||

    Don't forget great prisons that they don't spend any money on. A model we could adopt!

  • Jason||

    But they have the best health care system in the world.

    That is the positive aspect of totalitarianism. Everyone concentrates on the negative aspect -- the secret police, the brutal prisons, etc -- but people rarely talk about the positive aspect: every one is incorporated in society (the philosophical and social aspects of corporatism) and every one is taken care of for their total life. The positive aspect is what Giovanni Gentile had in mind when he coined the word "totalitario".

    You need to read contemporary fascist propaganda such as Alexander Raven Thomson or contemporary criticism of fascism such as John T Flynn's to get a good feel for why "totalitarianism" was considered a good thing.

  • ||

    I knew we had socialists on here, but now totalitatists? come on!!!

  • Jason||

    I'm not a totalitarian in real life but I play one on TV. :)

  • alan||

    Jason, if you can't come up with a better meaning for your existence than being 'incorporated in to society' go ahead and blow your fucking brains out because you don't even have a good use for yourself.

  • alan||

    The only purpose anyone who thinks like you has ever had is an extractive one, mob enforcer, cult follower, cop, welfare queen or bureaucrat. some alpha is going to find a use for you as a means of oppressing others -- it is the exact opposite mentality of an entrepreneur that possesses you and I would strongly prefer not to share a planet with you.

  • ||

    11 prisoners were released to Spanish authorities, though many others refused to surrender their citizenship in exchange for their freedom.

    This makes no sense. Is the Cuban government lying about these other prisoners? Who, being in jail as a political prisoner of a totalitarian regime, would think their citizenship in that country was worth anything at all, much less worth staying locked up for?

  • ||

    Heroes.

  • Clipper||

    + uno

  • marlok||

    A lot of great dissidents were also great nationalists, like Solschenizyn. If everyone just runs from a country when it becomes corrupt, there would eventually be nowhere to run. toxic is right.

  • ||

    If everyone just runs from a country when it becomes corrupt, there would eventually be nowhere to run.

    Actually, if everyone ran from any country that didn't have one of the best and least corrupt government in the world, the remaining countries would be forced to reform (or buy lots of barbed wire and machine guns to seal their borders).

  • ||

    Shorter:

    Nationalism props up bad governments.

  • ||

    or buy lots of barbed wire and machine guns to seal their borders).

    Which is exactly what they have been doing for fifty years.

  • roy||

    barbed wire is expensive... propaganda is cheaper.

    (sharks also work)

  • Abdul||

    I was thinking that either the ones who stayed had balls of granite, or there's more to the story. Best case scenario is that with Raul taking over, and being very old, Cuba is going through a Kruschev-style mellowing out.

  • Jason||

    I think it's because they wouldn't have the the hope to see their friends and family again. I seriously doubt that Cuban officials would permit the former prisoners to visit or their friends and family to leave Cuba.

  • ||

    every time you buy a Cuban cigar, you're putting money in the pockets of Fidel and Raoul.

    Not buying this notion that not trading with people living under brutal dictators will result in better living conditions for the innocent citizens you refused to trade with.

  • ||

    The point, prolefeed, is that when you buy a Cuban cigar you are not trading with "innocent citizens". You are trading with the kleptocratic Castro regime. They nationalized the cigar biz back in the day, you know.

  • marlok||

    Buying a cuban would be money straight to Fidel. I don't think wealth trickles down in communism. And it's not really free trade if the other dude's in shackles.

  • ||

    And those trade embargoes toppled the Castro regime a long time ago, didn't they?

    Trading will at least marginally improve the lives of the citizens. Not trading will not cause the regime to fail.

  • ||

    Are you ready to call for embargoes of oil from Venezuela and Saudi Arabia and ...?

    If not, why not? Even if the trade is neutral for the Cuban citizens, the American citizens benefit from the trade.

  • ||

    Also don't forget Europe and Canada trade freely with Cuba. And that hasn't done anything to topple the regime either. And also, it is not fair to say that since our embargo has failed all embargos will fail. For an embargo to work, the whole world has to do it.

    I heard and made the same arguments you are making now about South Africa in the 1980s. And it turned out I was wrong. The sanctions were exactly the right thing to do and ended apartheid. Without the sanctions, apartheid would still be in existence.

  • ||

    Without the sanctions, apartheid would still be in existence.

    Citation needed.

    North Korea has been a pariah. It's citizens live in incredibly miserable conditions. It's regime isn't showing any signs of toppling.

    Not trading doesn't kill the rulers and their military, because they skim what they need off the top. It just drives the citizens deeper into poverty.

  • ||

    I know someone who grew up in South Africa during apartheid, a liberal white guy. From what he's told me, people's attitudes changed there, and then the regime changed. The embargo might have nudged it over the top a bit quicker at most, but basically classical liberal attitudes took over enough that enough white people there felt shame about what their government was doing to effect a change.

  • ||

    Why would it have ened? It only ended because the South African government backed down after no one would trade with them. It has been 20 years. Maybe it would have fallen on its own. But that seems a bit unlikley. Why would the whites have given up power if they could continue to trade and make money?
    And even if it had lasted five more years, it is easy for us to tell the people there they should wait five more years to end it so we can have trade.

    And you know that. Stop being MNG and respond to the argument.

  • Brian E||

    Why would the whites have given up power if they could continue to trade and make money?

    Because what they were doing was wrong?

    Did it take an embargo to end Jim Crow in the US?

  • ||

    "Did it take an embargo to end Jim Crow in the US?"

    No. Federal troops enforcing court orders did. They would have stopped because they "knew it was wrong"? Are you kidding. I guess the NORKS will stop doing what they are doing any day now since they know it was wrong.

  • ||

    It doesn't do anything for the people there. It just lines the pockets of the rulers. That doesn't mean we shouldn't trade. It is to our benefit. And as you said, the embargo hasn't worked. But don't dellude yourself into thinking you are helping anyone but Castro and his chronies.

  • ||

    But don't dellude yourself into thinking you are helping anyone but Castro and his chronies.

    Not buying for a moment that SOME of that extra money generated by trade doesn't reach the citizens, if only to buy off enough of them to keep down the workload of the secret police.

  • ||

    But when 90% of the money goes to ensure their opporession, that little bit does very little good. And it certainly does nothing to topple the regime.

  • The Libertarian Guy||

    I'll go with this:

    We'll trade with Cuba on the condition that the Castros step down, and allow unfettered, fair elections.

    And they keep Jimmy Carter out of it.

  • ||

    And they keep Jimmy Carter out of it.

    Fixed

  • ||

    They're not going to accept that deal, TLG.

    Interesting to see libertarians favoring restrictions of trade across imaginary lines. Looks like there's a lot of excommunications for the libertarian popes who inhabit H&R to issue.

  • robc||

    I dont see any libertarians supporting it. Just John.

  • ||

    The Libertarian Guy apparently supports it too, since he's conditioning dropping the embargo on the Castros stepping down.

  • ||

    That doesn't necessarily make it a net good, though. If the extra money that goes to the regime gives them the resources to be more repressive, then the little that trickles to citizens is likely to not be worth the extra repression.

    Dictatorships are expensive.

  • ||

    I don't much care for trade embargoes, but that's irrelevant. This is me, saying I don't want any of my money going to the Castros.

  • ||

    Ehh, wealth probably does trickle down to some extent in communism. If you believe that when things are worse, those with the least power suffer more than at other times, the reverse must hold.

  • Steve Nash Equilibrium||

    Do you think life in China for the average person is better or worse since we've started trading with them?

  • ||

    And, more to the point, do you think life in America for the average person is better or worse since we've started trading with them?

    If not, take a look around your house and see if you can spot some stuff you've voluntarily purchased from China. I'll bet there's a lot, unless you've gone to huge expense and trouble to not trade with that regime.

  • ||

    We could have bought that stuff and invested that money somewhere else. i am quite sure the Indians or the Mexicans or Vietnamese would have gladly made that stuff and taken our money.

  • ||

    I don't waste time looking at what country the goods I buy come from. I look for the best value, period, quality versus price. If the Indians or Mexicans or Vietnamese can deliver better value than the Chinese, then I will buy their products.

  • ||

    That is your choice. But stop delluding yourself and thinking that that money is doing the average people in Countrys like Cuba or china any good.

  • MWG||

    Are you serious? Millions (I happen to know a few) have been lifted out of poverty in China since they've opened their doors to trade... That's not really open to debate. Take a look at the Shanghai skyline. You think those building are filled with Chinese govt. beauracrats?

  • ||

    MWG|7.20.10 @ 7:36PM|#
    "Are you serious? Millions (I happen to know a few) have been lifted out of poverty in China since they've opened their doors to trade... That's not really open to debate...."

    Agreed with your point, but a lot of those buildings *are* crammed with gov't bureaucrats.
    A far better example is to take a look at all those 'residential units' in (any Chinese city) with an air conditioner hanging out the window. *That's* prosperity; the hell with showcase buildings.

  • MWG||

    Touche... thought the money the govt. may have used to subsidize those buildings was extracted from wealth created largely by trade with the US. Of course your example would be more valid.

  • ||

    yes

  • ||

    What puzzles me is that Moynihan had to dig up a ten-year-old article to find a leftist punching bag on this issue.

  • ||

    She was taken to a hand-picked facility and given a tour, with some free roaming.

    I'm sure there was no deceptive preparation in advance to make things look all pretty and humane for the visitors.

  • ||

    I think I've been misinterpreted once again. I wasn't defending Ms Elijah, just surprised there wasn't a more recent Castro-apologetics article.

  • ||

    Guess you were too busy to be his...whatever...

    Was going to call you a bitchface, but you don't even care. You zen son of a bitch.

  • BakedPenguin||

    He wanted someone who specifically said Cuba's prisons were models of humanitarianism. Had he simply wanted a random douche praising Cuba, he could have culled the latest quote from Naomi Campbell or Sean Penn.

  • Dello||

    "Incidentally, Gonzalez was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his association with the Camagüey College of Independent Journalists."

    This POS deserves every bad thing he gets, obviously. Monsters like this aren't fit to lick the asses of child rapists, much less be fed decent food.

  • ||

    LOL, some things just never change now do they? LOL

    Lou
    www.privacy-tools.be.tc

  • Michael Moore||

    The Castros are getting a bad rap. I'd do anything to help them continue to take care of the Cuban people.

    Anything.

  • Max||

    You've spilled some gravy on your crotch. Can I lick that off for you?

  • shrike||

    Me! Me! Pick ME!!!

  • Sean Penn||

    I'd do the same for my good friend Chavez. I ride him bareback. Top THAT, you fat fucker.

  • Chad||

    You won't even look ME in the face.

  • nobody||

    Whoa. I just typed 'Hugo Chavez' into the search bar at the website where the Harvard asshole published her Cuban prison paper. It's like the bizarro-Reason. Creepy.

  • alan||

    I put 'libertarian' in their search, and came upon this awesome quote:

    http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/6569

    Georgina: My experience of libertarians is that they deny any connection between pornography and violence against women. They would assert that the risk of losing freedom of speech outweighs the gains of banning pornography. I would disagree with that.

    I believe that we need to draw a line and pornography is where I draw my line. We need to be able to call upon censorship and I know it is a loaded word, but I also don't refer to it in a prudish sort of way. I would love to see a woman-centred anti-pornography in Australia. That would be a great gift to half of the human race.

    Yet we are living in a sexist society that condones violence against women. In a poll that was done in 1990 in the United States, about 85% of 13-year-old boys thought that it was OK for a husband to rape his wife. While those views exist, there is a place for us to have censorship around pornography.

    So, some group went around asking thirteen year old boys if they were okay with rape, indifferent to it, or felt it was a definite no no? That is kind of fucked up.

    What does it even have to do with pornography? Shouldn't you be controlling for age since thirteen males have had far less experience with pornography than anyone given their limited time on the planet?

    Or, especially given that high percentage, did she just pull that stat out of her ass?

    Would she take the logical next step in her though processes and find a correlation between pederasty at the Vatican and the statue of David? Damn you, Michelangelo. How many more sore butts must there pass through the basilica before they tear down your obscene pornography? Inquiring feminist want to know.

  • Sidd Finch||

    I guarantee the question was more like "Can a wife choose to withhold sex with her husband?"

    The myriad victims on the left always amuse. The fugs hate teh porno while the hotties use their tits to support animal something something.

  • alan||

    That question would make more sense than what I proposed.

    I agree with the concept that a woman has an absolute right to withhold sex, but in so doing, at some point, maybe not the first time or three, but at some point, my dick has a right to seek other venues and should be able to without civil penalty being a risk.

    Animal rights hotties actually tend to be pretty cool and apolitical outside of that particular interest, at least in my experience. If you are a young dude on a lefty campus, the PETA chicks are usually your safest bet in terms of the hot balanced against horrible human being ratio. Take Back The Night! (if they are still around) chapters being the worst on that scale.

  • zoltan||

    I agree with the concept that a woman has an absolute right to withhold sex, but in so doing, at some point, maybe not the first time or three, but at some point, my dick has a right to seek other venues and should be able to without civil penalty being a risk.

    Or how 'bout, when a partner withholds sex, you DTMFA; and DON'T GET MARRIED. However, alimony should not exist and child support should be 50/50 in the absence of a pre-nuptial agreement.

  • alan||

    Civil penalties are only involved in the case of marriage which was the condition of the discussion so I don't see how your rationale applies. Maybe I left an impression that seemed recent and dripping with bitterness, but I had in mind a marriage that ended a decade ago.

  • alan||

    I have better things to do than to read through this one (really, I do!), but this link may interest the editors of Reason since it involves you and your shameful support of the slave trade:

    http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/39599

    Synopsis: Guest workers' or modern slavery?

    -wing forces. An article in the January edition of the right-wing "libertarian" US magazine, Reason ...

  • Danny||

    How I just wish that JFK had 1/10th the balls of those prisoners have back in '61 (Bay of Pigs) & '62 (Cuban Missile Crisis). This 50+ yr nightmare of the Cuban people by this mistake of evolution would have never happened.

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