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Cuba: The size of Florida yet with 80,000 political prisoners over 40 years. Dem

by Wall Street Journal April 21, 2000 Friday, Sep. 01, 2000 at 9:34 PM
soyboy_@hotmail.com

Maritza Lugo Fernandez and her jailing along woth 80,000 other persons in Cuba over the past 40 years. Cuba is about the same size as Florida and the Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Directorate counts 600 current political prisoners. Sra. Lugo was trying to improve food distribution and to discuss larger issues.

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"Good little Red"

by Gold Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 4:02 AM

This is not meant to be a defense of Cuba's authoritarian regime, but I didn't need Castro to turn me into a "good little Red who denounces the US." That was accomplished by the US itself which is directly responsible for more misery, death and destruction than can ever be fairly attributed to Castro. And as for "Cuba's Code of the Child [which allegedly] states, every aspect of society must work on 'the developement of his communist personality,'" one could equally point to an unspoken conspiracy which works to develop the "consumer personality" in every US child. The latter form of brainwashing is so much more efective because it isn't carried out by a clumsy authoritarian state, but rather by a brilliant array of slick, high paid marketers whose goal is to maximize profits by seducing as many children (i.e. consumers) as possible.

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Only 600?

by tragic optimist Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 2:05 PM
tragicoptimist@yahoo.com

Only 600?

After 40 years of assasination attempts made on Castro by the US government, the ex-cuban mafia and many other "private investors," it is no less than amazing that Castro has managed to keep the number of political prisoners down below 1000. Castro, like every other person, has faults. He has delt with his precarious situation wih great skill. He is alone, surrounded by a sea of swelling capital greed, and yet manages to provide the best in education, medicare, and numerous other social services despite the crippling US embargo. His "regime" may indeed have its victims, but those unfortunate victims are usually products of Capitalism, not Communism.

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Liberty and justice for all...

by Jose Marti Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 2:06 PM

April 12, 2000

Why Maxine Waters?

For quite a while everyone has been wondering why Maxine Waters is so adamant about returning Elián to Cuba. Of course behind every position, there is a reason. Good old

Maxine owes Fidel.

She wants Elián to go back to Cuba, because, she says, he belongs with his father. And she also said that we Cubans must obey the law. Good old Maxine is practicing the old saying, 'Do as I say, NOT AS I DO."

Maxine Waters is supporting someone who has broken the law and is hiding in Cuba, running away from the American

judicial system that wants her.

The person in question is Joanne Chesimard, aka Assata Shakur, a militant woman member of the Black Panthers Party,

who has been found guilty of murdering a police officer in New Jersey. There is a price over her head. And Maxine Waters has asked Castro not to deport her to US.



So visit the following site where you can read all about it. The account of the murder story and the reward. You can also read Maxine Waters' letter to the dictator of Cuba. This information was obtained as a courtesy of the Fairfax County, Virginia, Republican Party:

http://www.fairfaxco-gop.org/mwaters_castro.htm

On the other hand, should you be interested on reading about all the members of Congress who belong the International Socialist Alliance, what the Alliance is, and who are the members. Of course you will see the names of Maxine Waters and Charles Rangel, two prominent "fidelistas" in Congress, who together

with José Serrano have taken up the lead in defending the deportation of Elián to the dictator. So visit the following site and you will see them.

http://www.fairfaxco-gop.org/socialists.htm

This is also a courtesy of the FCRP, Virginia.

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Wrong forum

by Gold Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 4:11 PM

This is a news service for communities under-represented in the mainstream media. If we want to read an anti-Fidel rant, we can pick up the Wall Street Journal or the Miami Herald.

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very amusing site

by jdzevin Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 6:05 PM
jdzevin@gizmo.usc.edu

This fairfax-gop.org site is amazing. It must be the work of some brilliant parodist. There's even a RED SCARE section where they single out scary scary socialists in the legislative branch. Amazing! Here's their wickedly satirical take on how a right-wing firebrand would respond to the ``Seven Principles" of the DSA:



Never mind the doublespeak terms like Environmental Justice (whatever that is supposed to mean) or Global Non-Violence (undoubtedly a euphemism for unilateral disarmament), their "Economic Redistribution" principle clearly shows where these folks are coming from.



See, it's funny because in fact the Republicans and Democrats have been pursuing a policy of Economic Redistribution for decades. How else to explain the fact that the average CEO makes 416 times the wages of an entry level employee? How else to explain that the capital gains tax is lower than the income tax despite public opinion being strongly behind higher taxes on the super-wealthy?




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La Pregunta

by muchacho Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 6:34 PM

???????????????????????????????

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Badges!? We don't need no stinking badges!

by El Nino Saturday, Sep. 02, 2000 at 7:01 PM

Cuba: Exodus, Living Conditions And Human Rights

(Summary Of Facts And Considerations)

Realities Of An Exodus

In 1992 the world became aware of an unprecedented phenomenon: the record number of Cubans, 2.557, who managed to escape their country, arriving at U.S. shores in small boats and makeshift rafts. It is estimated that one out of every three or four who attempts to escape succeeds, the rest either perish or are captured. The second escape route has been entering Guantánamo Base, surrounded by barbed-wire fences and mine fields, very similar to the anti-escape system of former East Germany. Since 1959 about 20,000 have fled illegally these ways.

This leads us to ask who they are and why do they risk their lives this way. They have been mainly young and working-class people, the very ones claimed by the government to be the main beneficiaries of the revolution. Their main motivation has been to flee a totalitarian system that suffocates them. "I’d rather die at sea than keep living in Cuba" is a common expression among them. They do not come pursuing the American dream but fleeing the Cuban nightmare."

Since 1959 about a million Cubans have gone into exile by legal means. These exiles have been increasingly representative of the island’s population. They come from all areas of the country, all social classes and racial groups. In its latest major wave, the 1980 Mariel boatlift, they were predominantly from blue-collar background and under 30 years of age. As a result of their decision to leave the country, they have had to pay dearly in Cuba in terms of discrimination, privation, mistreatment, and economic extortion of their relatives in exile and even hard labor. Their motivation has also been primarily the strong desire to flee a totalitarian system that attempts to control the entire lives of its people.

Living Conditions and Human Rights

Fidel Castro came to power on January 1, 1959 with the backing of most Cubans. They believed his promises to restore the ascending democratic process started in 1940, that was interrupted by the coup d'etat of Gen. Fulgencio Batista in 1952.

By 1958, Cuba’s most serious problems were of a political nature. This was due to political corruption, aggravated by Batista’s dictatorship. In spite of political repression, Cuba progressed economically and socially, being ranked among the first four places in indicators of standards of living in the Americas, with an increasingly influential middle class.

It is apparent, in retrospect, that Castro’s real goal has been the unlimited enjoyment of absolute power. To accomplish this he initially waved the democratic banner. Later he declared himself marxist-leninist. This enabled him to perpetuate himself in power with an ideological justification. It also provided him with the vital economic aid and repressive experience of the former Soviet bloc.

To reach his goal, Castro had to face the strong opposition of many whom had believed his democratic promises. Among those who opposed him then (1960-1966) were mainly the little-known guerrillas in the countryside and in the urban areas. Thousands were executed by firing squads. Many of his former comrades in arms were among them. The defeat of the U.S.-sponsored Bay of Pigs operation contributed significantly to Castro’s consolidation in power.

The Castro regime has arrested or imprisoned hundreds of thousands for political reasons. These men and women make up the largest and harshest political prison system in the history of this continent. It is estimated that at its peak the number of prisoners reached about 100,000. These have come from all walks of life. In contrast with Batista’s dictatorship which was lenient by comparison, (Castro being an example receiving 15 years for leading the 1953 Moncada Barracks’s attack and was freed in 20 months) 20 to 30 year prison terms have been common. This was respectively the case of Húber Matos and Mario Chanes, former companions of Castro. Chanes has not even been allowed to leave the country after serving his entire 30-year sentence.

Human rights violations with detainees and political prisoners have been rampant. They have endured torture, including psychological, hard labor, and unjust additional punishment as with the infamous "drawers" (small standing-room-only cells where several were locked in).

In less than three years Castro was able to establish a totalitarian system He abolished all other political parties, controlled trade unions and professional organizations. He took over the press, the entire educational system. Health care, and practically the entire economy. He eliminated private enterprise, making individual entrepreneurship a crime. Religion was significantly repressed initially when all private and religious schools were confiscated in 1961, and hundreds of priests were forcibly expelled, including a bishop.

An analysis of living conditions under the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights shows that most rights have been repressed. The population as a whole has seen its rights violated not only to those persecuted and incarcerated.

We can differentiate between two types of human rights violations: those that are the result of direct repression that tend to violate the rights of some, most of the time, versus those which are the result of Indirect repression that violate the rights of all the people, all the time.

Direct repression has operated through the unjustified and often massive executions since 1959 that haven’t stopped to this date. Executions —in some cases— have also been accompanied by the inhuman drawing of most of the prisoner’s blood before being shot. It comprises also the long imprisonments the CDR’s (surveillance committee organized by block since 1960 to spy on the citizens), the military committees that continuously supervise the male population, the arbitrary arrests, the "acts of repudiation" performed by nazi-style-government-organized mobs to terrorize dissidents. A more recent variation of that pattern has been the "rapid response brigades." The cruel acts against those arrested and imprisoned have included the psychological breakdown of the individual, including the undue use of electroshocks.

However, most human rights violations have been the less apparent, but much more effective in the control of the people. This type of highly refined repressive system is applied through the social institutions to the entire population all the time, as we shall see.

Indirect repression is possible because of the totalitarian nature of Cuban society today. There, one studies, works, eats or receives medical attention in and by the state. A citizen’s advancement and benefits are determined mostly by his degree of "political and ideological integration." This attempt to control every facet of the individual’s social expression has operated through a system of coercion almost invisible to the foreign eye. This coercion involves:

The use of the 1976 Constitution, which is an example of a document that legalizes human rights violations. A flagrant case refers to Article 61 which asserts that an individual’s rights will only be recognized if said individual adheres to the objectives set forth by the government in its purpose to build a socialist state. Many times the government violated its own legality. In 1959 Air Force pilots were tried a second time and declared guilty after being acquitted by a revolutionary tribunal. The Constitution states that a national who adopts a foreign nationality will automatically lose his Cuban citizenship. However, since the late 1970s those Cubans nationalized as U.S. citizens and other nationalities have been forced to obtain a Cuban passport, as another form of extortion, when traveling to Cuba.

The educational system, highly repressive of the youth. Cubans can only receive the education the marxist-leninist government offers. In addition to this fact, repression takes place mainly through the use of the Cumulative Academic Record. This record hangs over the student and his family’s heads. The "ideological integration" and political conduct of the student and each of his/her parents is annually evaluated here. Through this record, the teacher becomes a watchdog of ideological and political loyalty. The threat of a blot of this type on the student’s record is a constant warning of impending danger both to the student and to his parents. Students from Junior High level are further exploited by being forced to work in the agricultural fields for free. The record of political integration will determine whether the student can pursue higher education and the type of career. Careers with a potential social impact will normally be closed to the non-integrated person.

At the place of employment. The Labor Record, follows the Academic Record, and accompanies the citizen throughout his lifetime. Here, ideological behavior is noted and skinnerian techniques have been utilized through a system of "merits" and "demerits" to further control the individual. Labor unions have become an important source of control of the worker, rather than his defender. Their goal is to increase productivity, coercing the individual to work for free through the so-called "voluntary work" and to indoctrinate him. In practice there is no right to strike.

The procurement of foodstuffs. A ration book is in effect for those products since 1962. A similar one exists for manufactured ones. The ration books record the rations and transactions of practically all products and have become increasingly restrictive. This is another form of control of the individual since he must shop in the stores assigned by the state. It is a crime to buy food from the remaining small farmers in order to manage the great shortages not satisfied by the ration book. This situation is unparalleled in the former communist bloc, including China, where free peasant markets were never outlawed. Free work and private initiative is also forbidden, thus an individual cannot hire or be hired by another or have a business: only the state can perform this economic task. Thus, Cubans have been forced to function at the survival level, worrying constantly about the procurement of food, which used to be abundant in Cuba before Castro’s absurd economic policies.

The geographical mobility of the individual in and out of the country. The personal ID (Carné de Identidad) that everyone must carry after 16, looks like a passport, but is much more than that due to the amount of individual information it contains (past and present places of residence, work, spouses, children and codes for ideological integration). The individual must ask permission for change of residence, work place and to leave the country, which is highly restricted.

The "mass organizations" (for children, youth and adult women and men) to which the individual is coerced to belong. Those organizations control even more the free time of the person through constant meetings and the use of ‘voluntary work" for all ages starting at the school level. That type of work is usually in the countryside, contributing to the breakdown of family unity and the traditional values, political indoctrination and great promiscuity. The latter has resulted in a very high premarital pregnancy and abortions rate.



The Castro regime has degraded the people forcing them to steal in order to survive, and to feign a loyalty they do not feel for the system. Prostitution (by the jineteras, mostly with foreigners) and sexual promiscuity have reached alarming proportions. Various sources indicate that the number of abortions is greater than the number of births. Alcoholism and suicide have become common escape methods.

Indirect repression has resulted in the persistent discrimination of the individual who dares to think for himself or simply wants to he politically neutral, something virtually impossible in today’s Cuba. This discrimination affects the citizen in all facets of life, thus making him, in practice, a second or third class citizen. In this way, artistic, literary or even purely recreational activities are highly controlled by the omnipotent and omnipresent State.

Control by the totalitarian state is of a magnitude that virtually eliminates privacy. This has reached such extremes as the use of psychiatrists and psychologists as instruments to control the population. These should report to State Security the "ideological deviants" they encounter in their practice. The records of their patients are totally open to Security agents. It has been documented that electroshock therapy has been used as a repressive instrument. Gynecology has also been misused by inserting IUD’s without permission in females who had given birth or had an abortion.

These types of repressive measures have led to a situation that can be considered a political-ideological-religious apartheid. Being religious has become a stain on the individual’s record. Religion, however, has been repressed subtly. It follows Castro’s directive of "making apostates, not martyrs" of the faithful. These directives have been masked in the policy of not closing churches or incarcerating persons for purely religious reasons.

Repression against religion has functioned in various ways. Many personal verification and written forms constantly report on this "flaw", and the believer faces constant discrimination at school and at work. They, in fact, become second or third class citizens. This has implied that certain careers with social impact will be forbidden to him or that a promotion at work will be denied. Practically all believers have been victims of indirect repression and often of the direct type. Examples of the latter have been the internment in concentration camps (the UMAP, 1965-1967) of many priests (including the current Archbishop of Havana), ministers, seminarians and prominent lay persons. Special animosity has been shown toward the openly persecuted Jehovah’s Witnesses whose Kingdom Halls have been closed and many forced into exile.

More recently, Cubans have had to suffer another shameful form of apartheid. They are discriminated against in their own country when tourists and foreigners have privileged access to goods or services (like food, gasoline, beaches, hotels and restaurants) from which the nationals are banned, partially or totally, due to their lack of dollars, which they are any way forbidden to carry by law.

Conclusion

The collapse of the Soviet Bloc brought about the elimination of the umbilical chord (about US $ 6 to 7 billion per year!) with which the USSR vitally supported and subsidized the Castro regime. It is not the U.S. economic embargo, but the lack of Soviet subsidy along with the extreme inefficiency of a system that Castro stubbornly has refused to liberalize what has brought about Cuba’s present deprivation. The people are lacking the essentials at all levels. The standards of living have regressed to the XIX th Century and are probably lower than ever before in Cuba’s history in contrast with the rest of the world.

Castro has called this dramatic situation a "special period in times of peace." This crisis has to be attributed to the lack of flexibility of Castro and the elite surrounding him. They prohibit Cubans from exercising their private initiative, which could solve most of their problems. That elite constantly proclaims the slogan of "socialism or death," but doesn’t have to endure the consequences of the totalitarian measures they have imposed. Castro —increasingly out of touch with reality— has proclaimed himself as the world leader of an ideology rejected by the peoples of the world. The Cuban "nomenklatura" (or the pinchos and mayimbes as they are known by the people) has enjoyed unprecedented privileges, lacking nothing. They are considered to be "the property holders of nothing and yet the owners of everything"

The stated situation of discrimination leads to the conclusion that human rights of the apparent minorities are not respected. Those who dare to dissent from the ruling elite in any way will run the risk of not only being discriminated, having their civil rights disregarded, but also suffer public beatings and imprisonment. But it must also be emphasized that most basic human rights are violated to all the people, all the time.

The so-called achievements of the revolution, such as in the areas of health care and education are obscured by the totalitarian repressive apparatus. That repressive system has been totally unnecessary to achieve any progress in those areas. Yet, the quality and equality of those services are highly questionable since their inherent deficiencies are well known, as well as the fact that the Cuban elite has access to highly privileged educational and medical services.

Finally, the harassment of dissidents and human rights activists is on the rise with the imprisonment of many. These include, the renowned poet María Elena Cruz Varela, who was beaten and forced to swallow opposition papers written by her, and was sentenced in 1991 to two years in prison. Sebastian Arcos Bergnes, a leader of the human rights movement was detained for months and then sentenced in 1993 to four and a half years in prison. Many other leaders of that movement are also now in prison or were forced to leave the country. On the other hand, Castro increases his political power while he prepares the people—like Hitler— for a tragic end, urging them to live at subsistence levels as the answer to the economic chaos created by his bankrupt system.

It can be predicted that economic conditions will continue to deteriorate reaching levels of hunger, and that epidemics will continue to develop. Efforts to flee the island will continue as a direct result of the growing totalitarian repression. It can also be expected that the number of suicides, already among the highest in the world, will rise.

Human rights violations in Cuba must be made known to Western governments and enterprises that are trading or dealing with the Castro government. They should be urged to condition any business transactions to a minimum of respect for human rights in that country. These governments and institutions could have great leverage with the Castro regime due to its need for hard currency. They also have great responsibility in helping to promote the inevitable internal change so that it may come as soon as possible and without a bloodbath.



------------------------------------------------------------

CUBAN LIVING CONDITIONS PROJECT

-COMMUNITY ACTION AND RESEARCH

(1993, Third Edition)

Summary prepared by sociologist Prof. Juan Clark, Ph.D. from Miami-Dade Community College. The translation and editorial suggestions of professors María Messina and Lillian Bertot are highly appreciated. For further details see by the author Cuba: Mito y Realidad Testimonios de un Pueblo, Saeta Ediciones: Miami-Caracas, 1992,2nd Edition, and by Clark, Angel de Fana and Amaya Sánchez, Human Right. In Cuba, An experiential Perspective, Coral Gables: Research Institute for Cuban Studies, University of Miami, 1991. See also Charles J. Brown and Armando M. Lago, The Politics of Psychiatry in Revolutionary Cuba, New Brunswick-London: Transaction publishers, 1991, and Andrés Oppenheimer, Castro’s Final Hour, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

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Long Live Castro

by mark Sunday, Sep. 03, 2000 at 5:07 AM
marq@technodyke.com

Whatever your anti-Castro arguments may be, I can't help but squirm with delight when I think about all the corrupt, rich assholes having their bank accounts nationalized as they ran screaming from the island. They (and their rich Republican friends) haven't stopped crying in 40+ years.

I nearly fell out of my chair laughing, for instance, when I read that GWBush is "supporting existing sanctions against Cuba until Havana holds free elections, allows free speech and liberates political prisoners." I guess the fact that China is a much bigger potential cell-phone market outwieghs the need for such lofty democratic ideals there. Haha!

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VIVA FIDEL !

by walfand Monday, Sep. 04, 2000 at 1:01 AM
WALFAND@HOTMAIL.COM

VIVA FIDEL ! VIVA LA REVOLOCION ! SOCIALISMO O MUERTE !!!!

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Stupid Gringos.

by balsaro Monday, Sep. 04, 2000 at 12:57 PM

Yeah right... As if every Cuban who left the island on a raft was a millionare. Get your head out of you ass Gringos. Do not comment on what you do not understand. You do not know nor would you want find out, what the reality is like first hand. After being pampered here is this county, you would not be able to survive the experience. Your voice would not be loud or strong enough for us to hear your cries from ninety miles across the water. Just because you hold these opinions and views here in the US does not mean you would be viewed as a friend or comrad by Castro. If you arrived there and spoke about defecting, he would gladly throw your ass in jail. In fact if you agree and love him so much, why don't you go there to live? You wouldn't dare. You lack the courage and the balls to put your money where your mouth is. You can only cry and complain here in freedom. You wouldn't be allowed to say a word over there. Prove me wrong. I challange you. Go to Cuba and try it. I will be watching the news services to see them haul you lame ass away. HaHa

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Commandante Marco

by .::::. Pancho .::::. Monday, Sep. 04, 2000 at 1:02 PM

Published Sunday, September 3, 2000, in the Miami Herald



Is Mexico's Zapatista leader yet another aspiring tyrant?

Bad news for those of us with a congenital weakness for socially conscious rebels: Mexico's guerrilla leader Subcommander Marcos may prove to be something very different from a champion of democracy.

You may remember that, when he led his Indian-supported 1994 Zapatista uprising in Mexico's southern state of Chiapas, the white-skinned guerrilla leader wearing a ski-mask to conceal his identity charmed the world with his claims to be fighting to topple the ``dictatorship'' that had ruled his country since 1929.

Furthermore, even those of us who knew that Subcommander Marcos -- who turned out to be Rafael Sebastián Guillén, a Mexico City university professor -- secretly belonged to the Maoist-inspired National Liberation Front guerrilla group could not help but admit to the possibility that he had evolved into a sincere fighter for democracy.

When I interviewed Subcommander Marcos in the Lacandon jungle in mid-1994, he certainly tried to portray himself as a Robin Hood-style fighter for basic freedoms. He repeatedly told me that his goal was not to take power, but to accelerate political change.

Asked about the early statements by his troops during the Jan. 1, 1994, uprising, he played down their calls for a socialist state. He said the main purpose of the Zapatista uprising was to oust the corrupt Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) ``dictatorship,'' which together with its friends in Mexico's business elite had become the main obstacles to social justice in Mexico, and particularly in Chiapas.

Marcos' personality helped give his words some credibility. Unlike Cuba's Fidel Castro, he didn't talk with the pomposity of an aspiring world leader. Rather, he played the role of an anti-hero, a man who seduced his interviewers with casual talk and self-deriding humor.

What would he do if, by some accident of history, he became Mexico's president, I asked him at the time. Marcos looked at me wide-eyed and smiled from behind his mask. ``What? Me, president of Mexico? You must be crazy! . . . I'm a guerrilla leader, a poet, a dreamer . . . [Mexico] would go down the drain.''

Today, nearly six years later, it's time for Marcos to live up to his claim to be a democrat. Two key events in recent weeks have changed history in Mexico and in Chiapas, and the Zapatista leader's rhetoric would prove to be a farce if he doesn't react to them accordingly.

On July 2, Mexicans broke with the PRI's seven-decade-old monopoly of power and elected opposition leader Vicente Fox as their next president. Fox, a former general manager of Coca Cola in Mexico, will take office Dec. 1 and is promising to lead a center-left government that will put special emphasis on reducing poverty.

But even if Marcos wanted to argue that Fox's victory would not necessarily change things in Chiapas, the state on Aug. 20 elected Pablo Salazar as its first opposition governor in recent memory. Salazar was backed by a coalition of eight Chiapas opposition parties, and is close to Roman Catholic Church groups that have been close to the Zapatista rebels.

Despite these key developments, the usually talkative Marcos has not said a word in public since the day of Fox's election.

Was his claim to be fighting the PRI ``dictatorship'' a public relations strategy to seduce naive gringo reporters? What excuse could he possibly have now for not opening the doors to a peace settlement with the next government?

Subcommander Marcos has the opportunity of his life: He could claim some credit for precipitating the political changes that led to the downfall of the PRI, take off his ski-mask, and renew his struggle for Mexico's Indians in the political arena.

If he doesn't do that soon, he will prove once and for all that he never was an altruist ``dreamer,'' but just another guerrilla commander who was interested only in one thing: power.

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Speak of the devil...

by Gustavo Wednesday, Sep. 06, 2000 at 10:58 AM

Published Tuesday, September 5, 2000, in the Miami Herald

American not angry at Cuban jailers

Meeting dissidents resulted in charge

BY CAROL ROSENBERG

Detained Aug. 11, a day before he was to depart Cuba after a two-week visit, Douglas Schimmel, 70, of Chicago was released Thursday.



His bathroom was a hole in the floor. Breakfast was an egg, a roll and warm milk in the morning. Accommodations were an eight-person cell, lights lit around the clock, shared with three other people.

For 20 days last month, a retired Chicago businessman on a self-styled people-to-people mission ran afoul of Cuban security services and was held at Havana's infamous Interior Ministry prison, Villa Marista, a former seminary turned interrogation center.

His charge: ``Rebellion,'' for videotaping dissidents on why they oppose the U.S. trade embargo, then tipping them to . He also gave away four baseballs, six Beanie Babies and a box of books, which he delivered to three independent libraries.

``I met with probably a dozen dissidents. I was warned to be careful and I wasn't careful enough,'' said Douglas Schimmel, 70, in a telephone interview from his home in Chicago.

Detained Aug. 11, a day before he was to depart Cuba from a two-week visit, he was released Thursday evening and put aboard a plane to Jamaica.

In between, he said, he was never abused but subjected to intensive interrogation by beefy state security members, who were exceptionally concerned about his health but equally convinced that he had been on a mission to undermine the Cuban system for a subversive organization.

``In terms of my face-to-face contacts, I cannot complain about the treatment,'' said Schimmel, sounding chagrined at the brouhaha his detention caused.

RIGHTS ACTIVIST

Schimmel, a retired personnel manager for a Swiss agricultural firm, is a self-described ``knee-jerk liberal,'' with a history of activism in civil rights movements. An Amnesty International member, he was an election observer in El Salvador in 1990 and cut sugar cane in Cuba in 1998 with the Venceremos Brigades, which he found ``a Potemkin village sort of thing.''

RETURN VISITS

So he returned earlier this year, and again this summer, to hear from dissidents. He met a dozen, videotaped interviews with about six, he said, posed for photographs with them, and then gave them or each, what he called ``a gratuity for their time and effort and information.''

``I wasn't delivering wads of cash to buy C4 with, or anything, like that,'' he said.

But Cuban officials ``were very suspicious as to why I came down: Whether somebody sent me, whether somebody directed me, whether somebody financed me. I said, `I'm on my own. I represent nobody except my curiousity on social, political and economic things in Cuba.' I don't know that they ever believed me,'' he said.

Why?

``No. 1, they're paranoid, and No. 2, they've got some reasons to be paranoid,'' he replied. ``And, No. 3, by all appearances if I was looking at me I could find reason to be very suspicious as what I was doing.''

INTERROGATION

So for nearly three weeks, he engaged in near-daily rounds of interrogation, interrupted periodically by medical officers concerned about his diabetes.

``They monitored my diabetes, smothered me with doctors and testing. They said their No. 1 concern was my health. It would've been embarrassing to have an American die in a prison for PR reasons,'' he said. ``I could not ask for a more conscientious, continuous monitoring in concern for my medical situation,'' he added, acknowledging he sounded like ``an ad for the tourist bureau.''

``In terms of the way I was treated, I can't complain, I was very well treated. I was even warmly treated, and this from people whose job it was to find out, look under every rock to see what they could find me guilty of.''

His first time in prison, he said, he wasn't afraid, but based on the conditions ``I can understand why the Red Cross isn't allowed in there . . . if the Red Cross has particularly high standards.''

THREE CUBANS

His toilet was ``a hole in the floor underneath the shower,'' his cell was a ``sizable room with six bunks,'' in a hospital facility occupied by three younger men, all Cubans, whose circumstances ``I sort of made it my business not know.'' Beside, he said, they didn't speak English.

``The guards, the interrogators, everybody was professional, but also very human,'' he added. ``Maybe they felt sorry for me with my stumbling attempts to follow their directions in Spanish. They were uniformly nice and considerate.''

Schimmel said he was never fearful during his imprisonment, even when he concluded that he would probably be convicted of a crime and spend seven to 15 years in prison.

An opponent of U.S. trade sanctions of Cuba, he said he probably will not return to the island -- for fear of his wife, Priscilla. She raised a nearly three-week ruckus with the Cuban mission in Washington when he did not come home on time and with the State Department and members of Congress.

NO DISSENT

So what did he learn on his fact-finding mission?

``A lot of what I thought before: They simply don't allow dissent. They make a distinction between dissent and desertion -- and they consider that anybody who is discussing other than the existing social economic order has deserted the objectives and accomplishments of the revolution.

``I lectured, unsuccessfully I'm sure, that dissent is what brings progress historically -- from the eight-hour day, to women's suffrage to civil rights to the Vietnam War. I told them, you know if we arrested people for what you consider dissent as a crime, we would have 95 percent of our population in jail at any moment,'' he said.

``Unfortunately, that doesn't exist in Cuba. I think that is their loss.''

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The truth about politics...

by Mikhail B. Wednesday, Sep. 06, 2000 at 12:41 PM



Thus, we find that both Capitalism and Communism are traitors to freedom. Long Live Anarchy!

"...We have found that Freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice, and Socialism without Freedom is slavery and brutality..." - Mikhail Bakunin, Anarchist.
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