Ley Mordaza – Gag Law
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    The Cuban Regime Brings Back the Weapon of Fear

    The Cuban Regime Brings Back the Weapon of Fear / Iván García

    Ivan Garcia, 7 September 2016 — In the autumn of 2002 at an event in a
    Havana theater, the dictator Fidel Castro sent a clear message to
    independent journalists and regime opponents in an effort to downplay
    their importance. Referring to dissidents, he said, “We are not going to
    kill cockroaches with canon-fire.”

    A growing fear gradually seeped into even our living rooms. On any given
    night Fidel Castro, scowling belligerently while running his fingers
    across the corners of his mouth, would read the names of dozens of human
    rights activists and independent journalists whom he “accused” of having
    attended a reception at the home of the ambassador from what was then
    United States Interests Section in Havana.

    They were difficult years. State Security, which had been granted
    unlimited powers by the regime, persistently harassed dissidents and
    independent journalists by detaining and maintaining files on them,
    recording their places of residence, organizing acts of repudiation
    against them, and seizing money and such simple things as typewriters
    from them.

    In February 1999 the rubber stamp parliament, then presided over by
    Ricardo Alarcon, approved Law 88, the Cuban National Independence and
    Economy Act, more commonly known as the Gag Law. In Article 1 it states:

    “The purpose of this law is to criminalize and penalize those acts aimed
    at supporting, facilitating or collaborating with the objectives of the
    Helms-Burton Act, the blockade and the economic war against our people,
    which are intended to disrupt internal order, destabilize the country
    and abolish the Socialist State and the independence of Cuba.”

    It stipulates penalties of twenty years or more and even the death
    penalty for independent journalists. It remains in effect. This legal
    mishmash was the instrument used to convict seventy-five dissidents to
    long prison sentences during the fateful Black Spring of 2003.

    Castro and State Security thought the Iraq war, which began on March 18,
    2003, would serve as the perfect pretext for deflecting international
    media attention away from Cuba. But they were wrong; it did not work.

    The European Union, the United States, democratic governments from
    various continents, organizations which monitor the observance of human
    rights and freedom of expression, and prominent intellectuals all raised
    their voices.

    A recipient of the Nobel Prize for literature and supporter of the
    regime, Portugal’s Jose Saramago, wrote a piece entitled “It Has Come to
    This” in which he condemned the crackdown and the executions of three
    young black men who had tried to hijack a passenger ferry in order to
    flee to the United States.

    With the ascent of Raul, handpicked by his brother Fidel after illness
    forced the elder Castro to resign, the military regime changed strategy.

    In the summer of 2010 it released prisoners of conscience arrested
    during the Black Spring and gradually introduced economic reforms which
    provided the regime with a needed dose of political oxygen.

    This political oxygen allowed Castro II to orchestrate a well-planned
    international campaign to lift the U.S. economic and trade embargo and
    overturn the European Union’s Common Position.

    The climax was the restoration of diplomatic relations with the United
    States on December 17, 2014 after eighteen months of secret
    negotiations. Cuba became the subject of news headlines and a photo op
    for famous foreigners.

    Some Cubans believed this was the beginning of an historic period of
    political reform and democratization. But within a few months the overly
    optimistic expectations turned to abject cynicism.

    The flow of emigrants increased and now there is a retreat from economic
    reform. The creation of new non-agricultural cooperatives has stalled.
    In early 2016 local media began a campaign demonizing wholesalers and
    pushcart vendors, blaming them for the high prices of agricultural products.

    But the turning point that led to the return of political dinosaurs,
    fanatics and conservatives was Barack Obama’s speech at the Gran Teatro
    de La Habana on Monday, March 20, 2016.

    The opening shot that led to the political brakes being slammed on was
    an outrageous editorial by Fidel Castro in the Communist Party
    newspaper. He was later joined by ventriloquists and scribes hired to
    write analyses on demand.

    The current period of austerity — brought on by the political, economic
    and social turmoil in Venezuela — is the reason for the latest round of
    Cuban belt tightening. Yet another.

    Highly reliable government sources indicate that September, October and
    November will see further rounds of cutbacks which will adversely
    affect the citizenry.

    Faced with this dilemma, the government is looking for ways to limit the
    damage. Any vestige of free thought outside the official framework is
    considered, at best, suspect.

    An “enemy” could be anyone: private taxi drivers, official journalists
    who write for foreign or alternative media and, of course, dissidents.
    It’s all the same.

    It has stepped up its harassment of opposition figures upon their
    returns from trips abroad and the Ladies in White continue to be subject
    to brutal assaults.

    On August 24, the official press began describing a conference on
    freedom of internet access to be held in Miami on September 12 and 13 as
    subversive. The conference is sponsored by the Office of Cuba
    Broadcasting, which oversees Radio and Television Martí.

    The event seems to be the ideal pretext to dust off the machinery of
    repression for use against dissidents and independent journalists. It
    serves as a smokescreen to blur the bleak scenario facing Cuba.

    Given the Castro regime’s underhanded tactics, lust for power and
    unwillingness to play by democratic rules, the international community
    should take note of its recent domestic and foreign policy directives.

    Could a major economic crisis lead to increased repression of dissidents
    and freelance journalists? Of course. The delicate state of affairs on
    the island will always be the sandpaper capable of lighting a match at
    the slightest touch.

    The regime is also very worried about the opposition making inroads with
    the private business sector and the average citizen. If there is
    anything at which totalitarian systems are effective it is in the art of
    repression and preventing social conflicts.

    It is no accident that they have remained in power for almost six decades.

    Martí Noticias, August 31, 2016

    Source: The Cuban Regime Brings Back the Weapon of Fear / Iván García –
    Translating Cuba –

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