Against Raúl Castro's visit to France
Cuban dictator Raúl Castro, invited by François Hollande, is scheduled to arrive in Paris on February 1, 2016. The President of the Council of State and of Ministers and the First Secretary of the Communist Party (to cite just a few of his official duties), Fidel Castro's younger brother is a tyrant of the worst kind who has been wielding power for 57 years, more than half a century.
Raúl Castro is a man who, after seizing power in January of 1959, had dozens of prisoners shot one night in Santiago de Cuba after a sham "trial" that lasted less than half an hour. Over the course of his time in command of the armed forces and internal repression, he has executed, imprisoned and driven into exile tens of thousands of opponents, along with his brother and Che Guevara, through the infamous "Revolutionary Courts" and other military instruments that still remain in force today, as in the "Caso Ochoa," in which several high-ranking officers were shot, or when three young people trying to leave the country were sentenced to death in 2003 during the" Black Spring."
And it was he who in 1996 ordered the downing of two planes piloted by Cuban exiles, whose mission consisted of helping the countless balseros risking their lives on fragile boats to escape from Cuba. In 2012, with Raúl Castro as the Head of State, one of the country's opposition leaders, Oswaldo Payá, honored with a Sakharov Prize for human rights, and activist Harold Cepero, were victims of a fatal traffic "accident," undoubtedly produced by the regime's henchmen. The opposition continues to be harassed and repressed. Not a day goes by without continuing intimidation, beatings, arbitrary arrests, humiliation and convictions against all those who refuse to toe the official line.
Despite this deplorable record, in December of 2014 the Obama Administration initiated a policy of detente leading to the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two countries and multiple overtures of friendship in order to convince Congress, with a Republican majority, to vote for the lifting of the embargo. Raúl Castro, meanwhile, despite some measures aimed at the partial liberalization of the Cuban economy, has only reinforced its repressive system.
François Hollande got involved, going so far as to visit an apparently moribund Fidel Castro in April of 2015. It seems that he forgot his past statements, made in 2003, categorically condemning "a personal, even dynastic, exercise of power; the rejection of free elections, censorship, police repression, the imprisonment of dissidents... in short, the full arsenal of a dictatorship." That dictatorship continues. Its goal is to retain power forever by placing Castro successors in key posts - even though these are people who don´t even make an attempt to conceal their enjoyment of "capitalist" pleasures abroad (Mediterranean vacations on luxury yachts, for example), thereby demonstrating an absolute indifference to the plight of a people reduced to rationing and subjected to repression.
The most cynical or naive continue to justify the regime's perpetuation in power based on its advances in health and education - even though these consist of measures adopted over 50 years ago and whose results are far from what the propaganda alleges, and compare poorly to those achieved by various poor countries that have been able to make the same type of progress, but without ruining their economies and suppressing freedoms. Others justify the detente based on the potential economic progress, ignoring the reality of a country where there is no justice or the slightest commitment to any development. Thus, Cuba's debt with the Club de París, most owed to France, has been purely and simply canceled.
Thousands of Cubans continue to flee from the terror and their deplorable living conditions by trying to cross the Straits of Florida or, even more treacherous, venturing into many Latin America, only to be blocked in Central America en route to the US.
The only solution to this state of affairs is to support the opposition, which could place Cuba back on track towards democracy and prosperity.
Receiving Raúl Castro in France will only serve to shore up his power. Therefore, we call on all democrats to denounce this invitation. Nothing justifies this stay, which represents an insult to the struggle for human rights in Cuba and a grievous moral failure by the Government and the President of France, insensitive to the suffering of the Cuban people and their aspirations for freedom.
Jacobo Machover. Cuban writer and academic.
Laurent Muller. President of the Asociación Europea Cuba Libre (European Free Cuba Association)
Jesús Zúñiga. An independent Cuban journalist, in exile in France.