No one opposed to the Castro dictatorship is ever truly safe from the long, nasty arm of the secret police. But lately, it's the independent journalists who seem to be bearing a disproportionate amount of the repression, especially those trying to learn more about the journalistic craft.
The journalists aren't being sent to prison. Raul Castro's brand of repression - catch, threaten and release - while no more welcomed than his big brother's, is much more subtle than that. In fact, it is so subtle, you have to wonder whether the United States government, which the secret police is also targeting indirectly with the new tactics, even notices.
Julio Aleaga Pesant was the latest journalist to be harassed by the secret police. On the morning of May 29, a couple of thugs picked up Aleaga at his Havana home and took him to a local police station. They questioned him about the journalism classes he was taking at the U.S. Interest Section - which hosts Cubans taking teleconference courses offered by Florida International University - and the activities of some anti-government groups. A few hours later, Aleaga was released.
Numerous journalists in the past month have received similar mistreatment. The thought of journalists wanting to be better journalists scares the hell out of the dictatorship, as it should.
The dictatorship is even willing to risk a diplomatic confrontation with the United States. After all, the journalism students are, if only temporarily, guests of the United States government. The arrests and harassment, while no surprise in Castro's Cuba, violate that sanctuary. At the very least, American diplomats should raise a protest.
But so far, there has been only silence. For a nation for which freedom of the press is one of its bedrock principles, that is a shame.