The Wall Street Journal editorializes on a spectacular scene this week in Havana:
The four Cuban women who took to the steps of the capitol in Havana last week chanting "liberty" for 40 minutes weren't exactly rebel forces. But you wouldn't know that by the way the Castro regime reacted. A video of the event shows uniformed state security forcibly dragging the women to waiting patrol cars. They must have represented a threat to the regime because they were interrogated and detained until the following day.
The regime's bigger problem may be the crowd that gathered to watch. In a rare moment of dissent in that public square, the crowd booed, hissed and insulted the agents who were sent to remove the women.
One of the four women, Sara Marta Fonseca, gave a telephone interview to the online newspaper Diario de Cuba, based in Spain, as she made her way home after being freed. Ms. Fonseca, who is a member of the Rosa Parks Feminist Movement for Civil Rights, said that the group was demanding "that the government cease the repression against the Ladies in White, against the opposition and against the Cuban people in general." The Ladies in White are dissidents who demand the release of all political prisoners.
Yet as Ms. Fonseca explained, the group wasn't really addressing the government. "Our objective is that one day the people will join us," she said. "Realistically we do not have the strength and the power to defeat the dictatorship. The strength and the power are to be found in the unity of the people. In this we put all our faith, in that this people will cross the barrier of fear and join the opposition to reclaim freedom."
Ms. Fonseca said her group chose the capitol because the area is crowded with locals and tourists and they wanted to "draw attention to the people of Cuba." In the end, she said that they were satisfied with the results because she heard the crowd crying "abuser, leave them alone, they are peaceful and they are telling the truth." This reaction, the seasoned dissident said, "was greater" than in the past. "I am very happy because in spite of being beaten and dragged we could see that the people were ready to join us."
For 52 years the Cuban dictatorship has held power through fear. The poverty, isolation, broken families and lost dreams of two generations of Cubans have persisted because the regime made dissent far too dangerous. If that fear dissipates, the regime would collapse. Which is why four women on the capitol steps had to be gagged.
Here's the video of the protest:
For more, read Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin's great post.