Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuba’s Repression Escalates

    THE AMERICAS – OCTOBER 3, 2011

    Cuba's Escalates
    The loosening of restrictions by the U.S. is read as weakness in
    .
    By MARY ANASTASIA O'GRADY

    Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson returned home from an attempted
    hostage-rescue mission to Cuba last month empty-handed and "still
    scratching [his] head" as to why the regime double-crossed him.
    What is truly baffling is why Mr. Richardson expected anything different
    from a dictatorship operating in extreme-repression mode.

    In a Sept. 14 interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, Mr. Richardson said he
    had been invited to the island to discuss the release of U.S. Agency for
    International Development contractor Alan Gross. Mr. Gross was
    in December 2009 and is serving a 15-year sentence.

    Mr. Richardson admitted that he got stiffed by Cuba's "foreign ministry,
    which a lot of the people there I know and have been friends" with. What
    he could not grasp is why those "friends"—a strange designation for
    individuals who might one day be hauled before an international
    human-rights tribunal—don't appreciate the Obama administration's
    outreach. Yes, they are "hardliners," he admitted, but they ought to
    understand that the White House has been bending over backward to get along.

    Actually they do understand, and that's why they treated him so badly.

    Mr. Richardson told Mr. Blitzer that he was "flabbergasted" when, after
    a "delightful" three-hour lunch discussing how U.S.-Cuba relations might
    be improved—including, he told me by phone Friday, the possibility of
    removing the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after
    the release of Mr. Gross—the foreign minister "slammed me three ways:
    one, no seeing Alan Gross; no getting him out; and no seeing ."

    Civil rights protester Sonia Garro after a seven-hour interview with
    Cuban state security.

    What happened was very predictable. The "loosened travel restrictions"
    and increased "remittances [from] Cuban-Americans" that Mr. Richardson
    cited as signs of Mr. Obama's willingness to deal are read as weakness
    by the bullying regime. It has something, i.e., somebody, the U.S. wants
    back very badly, and the administration acts as if it is powerless. Why
    should Castro deal?

    Mr. Richardson did even less for Cuba's dissidents. One Richardson pearl
    of wisdom, shared on CNN, was that Cuba's "human-rights situation has
    improved." In fact, in Cuba are rapidly deteriorating. To
    claim otherwise is to abandon the island's brave democrats when they
    most need international solidarity.

    Ask Sonia Garro, pictured in the nearby photo. For years Ms. Garro has
    denounced the regime's discrimination against Afro-Cubans. Despite her
    own poverty, in 2007 she created a recreation center in her home for
    poor, unsupervised children, according to a report by an independent
    Cuban journalist. One of her goals: to get young girls out of
    prostitution. Ms. Garro is also a member of Ladies in Support, a group
    that pledges solidarity to the , which was founded by the
    wives, sisters and mothers of political prisoners in 2003 to work for
    their liberation.

    In October 2010, Ms. Garro was detained by state security and held for
    seven hours. She emerged from the ordeal with a broken nose. Another
    woman taken into custody with Ms. Garro had her arm broken.

    The nongovernmental organization Capitol Hill Cubans has reported that
    in the first 12 days of September, authorities detained 168 peaceful
    activists. These "express detentions" are designed to break up
    gatherings, which risk spreading nonconformist behavior. Locking up
    offenders for long periods would be preferable, but the regime wants
    people like Mr. Richardson to go around saying that human rights have
    improved. The regime is also making greater use of civilian-clothed
    "rapid response" brigades that are trained, armed and organized to beat
    up democracy advocates.

    Mr. Richardson told me he considers Cuba's record improved because 52
    political prisoners were sent to Spain in 2010. Yet exiling promising
    opposition leadership hardly qualifies as a humanitarian gesture. Nor
    are gruesome Cuban prisons anything to ignore.

    Last month in a speech in New York, one former , Fidel Suárez
    Cruz, described his seven years and seven months of solitary
    confinement, including two years and eight months in a cell with no
    windows, ventilation or artificial light. One favorite pastime of his
    torturers: Four military men would pick him up and then drop him on the
    floor. His testimony, posted on Capitol Hill Cubans website, is required
    viewing for anyone who doubts the evil nature of this regime.

    Nevertheless, Cuba's dissidents remain relentless, and there are signs
    that the regime is giving up on the express-detention strategy. Fearless
    democracy advocate Sara Marta Fonseca and her husband Julio León Pérez
    have been in jail since Sept. 24. Ms. Fonseca's son has seen her and
    says she is black and blue all over and has an injury to her spinal
    column. Word is the regime is preparing to charge the couple; 11 other
    dissidents are awaiting trial. Meanwhile, Yris Pérez Aguilera, the wife
    of the prominent dissident Jorge Luis García Pérez "Antúnez," and two
    peers were detained on Sept. 26. Their whereabouts are unknown.

    Any hope of protecting these patriots lies in international
    condemnation. Mr. Richardson could help by returning to CNN to correct
    the record.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204138204576601123009028568.html