UPDATED: José Antonio Mola Porro was released from prison on May 14, 2008.
(I originally posted the following last month at Babalú.)
The ignorance that some in this country, even the most "educated" of citizens, insist on demonstrating about Cuba never ceases to astound me.
For example, a day before Cuba, as part of its strategy to avoid scrutiny of its human rights record, said, "No thanks," to an invitation from the European Union to begin talks on improving relations, American lawmakers said they would introduce legislation to lift restrictions on trade with the island. The disconnect — while not surprising, if you know your history — boggles the mind. It's as if after almost 50 years, some in this country still believe fidel castro was our creation, and that if we just change our behavior, he will transform himself into a democrat and use peace and love to guide the nation.
Similarly, the American Library Association, which ostensibly wants all librarians around the world to enjoy the freedoms they enjoy here, has turned its back on the plight of Cuba's independent librarians. They, along with independent journalists, human rights activists and other dissidents, bear the brunt of the worst the Castro dictatorship has to give the Cuban people. But the ALA, which is meeting this week in Washington, has repeatedly refused to deliver even tacit support for their colleagues on the island.
In contrast to the pussy footing style of Fidel Castro's appeasers in Congress and the ALA, there is the defiant, in-your-face attitude of some — but not enough — activists in the Cuban opposition, like Marta Beatriz Roque.
Last week, Roque — who was arrested during the "black spring" of 2003, and sentenced to 20 years in prison, but later released on medical parole — lead a demonstration march in Camagüey in support of imprisoned librarian José Antonio Mola Porro. About 70 people joined Roque in marching to the office of the provincial attorney general to request Mola's release, according to Catholic News Agency.
Cuban Democratic Directorate has more on Mola:
José Antonio Mola Porro is an independent librarian and a member of the Cuban Human Rights Foundation. He was detained on May 15, 2005, while traveling to Havana to participate in a meeting of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba. He was sentenced to 2 years of prison. In 2006 he was freed but imprisoned again in November of that same year for having participated in the Independent Libraries Congress. On May 14, 2007, he was supposed to be freed, but was instead sentenced to one more year without trial or sentence. He is now at the Cerámica Roja Prison in Camagüey.
Roque and the others took an enormous personal risk, in standing up for Mola, but the dictatorship and those who would coddle it, can expect more of the same from Cubans unwilling to succumb to fear. One of the marchers with Roque was the former political prisoner Jorge Luís García Pérez, also known as "Antunez," who was released from prison this past spring after serving more than 17 years in jail. He said, according to the Directorate:
“I take advantage of this opportunity to make a call to the national and international public opinion to join in solidarity with all our brothers and sisters who are suffering and are in difficult situations while making just demands. All human rights activists are determined to be present anywhere in Cuba’s national territory, whether at a prison or a Ministry of Justice office. ... (W)hen human rights are violated, the internal opposition will be present, human rights groups will be present, civil society groups will be present, demanding human rights for those who are imprisoned and those who are not.”
Antunez, Roque and the others, who know exactly what they are doing, and the chances they are taking with their safety, are role models for the world to follow in their dealings with the dictatorship. Their courage, and their commitment to doing what is right, no matter how uncomfortable it might get, is what is needed in the halls of Congress and at your local library.
One of the surest indicators of the repressive nature of the Castro regime is the jailing of more than 300 political prisoners. To illustrate that reality, Uncommon Sense each week profiles one prisoner. There also is a Political Prisoner archive on the left sidebar. To suggest a prisoner for a profile, send me an e-mail.
For profiles of imprisoned Cuban journalists and related information, read the March 18 Project.
For more on how you show your support for José Antonio Mola Porro and other Cuban political prisoners, visit Bloggers United for Cuban Liberty.