Given that the hard left was so vociferous and occasionally creative in its opposition to the war in Iraq, it would be a tragedy if their creative energy now went to waste. Thus, I have a suggestion for a new cause that will allow them to paint their faces, have the occasional march, and for which Sean Penn can buy space in the Washington Post to write op-ed advice to the Defence Secretary: the liberation of Cuba.
No, really. After all, if one wants to strip down naked a la Gulf War Protests II, there are plenty of good reasons to do so vis-à-vis Fidel Castro’s island fiefdom. The latest came on May 14 when two officers of the Cuban Department of State Security visited independent Havana journalists Ernesto Roque and Anna Rosa Veitía and instructed them to stop working. Apparently they were told that any attempt to continue would mean charges under Law 88, the same Cuban gag law that sent 75 dissidents and journalists to prison for terms of up to 20 years way back in the repressive Cuban era of April 2003. If the Dixie Chicks are not busy, perhaps they could arrange a benefit concert for the spouses and children of the already imprisoned dissidents and schedule more benefit concerts for the likely future ones.
But if freedom for journalists isn’t attractive enough to get anti-war protesters back out into the streets or entertainers to rearrange their concert tours, how about this report from Amnesty International? In mid-April, three Cubans were executed after they failed in their attempt to hijack a ferry and to force it to the United States. Amnesty International notes the incident ended without bloodshed and while Amnesty is against capital punishment, period, it is also concerned with the haste with which the Cubans were disposed of: "What is equally of concern is that the men were given a summary trial, and their appeals to the supreme court and the Council of State were dealt with in a cursory and wholly inadequate manner. They were shot and killed less than a week after their trial began." Apparently, the wheels of Cuban justice grind quite quickly. If Janeane Garofalo is twiddling her thumbs after the short war in Iraq, perhaps she could gather some of her Hollywood comrades to look into this report from Amnesty.
The left never ceases of telling people how bad life is in Western countries and how we all live in nothing more than pseudo-democracies, mere finely tuned machines run by the corporate elite which “manufacture consent” as say, Noam Chomsky might put it. But suppose Chomsky and his buddies like Gore Vidal wanted to get out the realm of blood-for-oil conspiracy theories and into the reality of blood-for-dissent?
Should they care, Chomsky and Vidal could always look up the Human Rights Watch report from last year that detailed how six Cuban human rights advocates (and two journalists) were arrested and beaten in April 2002, including one activist who is blind. Juan Carlos González Leiva, president of the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights and the Fraternity for the Blind required four stitches on his forehead because of the police beating. Accused of public disorder and contempt, Leiva could be in jail for up to three years though there is no word yet on when his trial will take place. Unfortunately for Leiva, this is not his first run-in with Cuba’s crackdown on blind dissidents. In April, the Miami Herald reported that before his latest incarceration, Leiva “served as particularly amusing entertainment for the communists. They used to kidnap him from the street, take him to a remote place, beat him up and take his white cane. The ‘game’ consisted of guessing how many hours he would take to rejoin his terrified wife,” noted the Herald reporter.
Oh, I know. The Left will retort that Cuba has free health care, and look - the United Nations even recently reinstated Cuba on the UN’s Human Rights Commission. For those who interpret UN pronouncements as akin to wisdom from Greek oracles, such developments must surely be encouraging. But for protesters truly interested in a better world, they should try and draft their pals, their rhetorical skills, their organizational abilities and their made-for-TV colorful press conferences in defense of and in promotion of freedom around the world. Who knows? After such an experience of lobbying against the western hemisphere’s last dictator, the protesters might get hooked on such virtuous behaviour and never go back to worrying about the removal of brutal tyrants.
Mark Milke is a Canadian author. His latest book is Tax Me I’m Canadian -- Your Money and How Politicians Spend It.