Human Rights in Cuba

Time To Change

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Waiting for help

Posted on Monday, 04.11.11

Oscar Elías Biscet says Cuban dissidents are willing to discuss
transitional government

Oscar Elías Biscet, the most important member of the opposition in Cuba,
said dissidents would be willing to negotiate a transitional government
to implement democratic measures that would avoid a civil war.

"If the regime were willing to have talks, we have demands," Biscet told
El Nuevo Herald from Havana. "We want Raúl and to resign
because they have drowned the country in misery, political
assassinations and . Let them assign other people to
represent their interests and let us begin a transition toward freedoms
for the Cuban people."

Biscet was released on March 11 after mediation by the Cuban Catholic
Church culminated in the release of 115 political prisoners. Fifty other
prisoners are still jailed and there are no plans for their release.
All, except Biscet and 12 others, accepted exile in .

"The fact that a group is not willing to leave the country is a way to
show the world that our fight is about love of our country and dignity
for human beings," he said. "It seems to me that this favors the Cuban
people's cause."

Biscet, a 49-year-old doctor, said that Cuban authorities are giving the
world and the people in Cuba false indications of change — allowing some
to be self-employed, opening the country to foreign capital and opening
a dialogue with dignitaries who advocate for , such as
former U.S. President Jimmy Carter.

Carter met with the Castro brothers and Ricardo Alarcón, president of
the National Assembly of Popular Power, and other officials during his
visit to Havana last week. He also visited Alan P. , a U.S.
government subcontractor serving a 15-year sentence in Havana.
Gross was for carrying transmission equipment for independent

In his meeting with dissidents and bloggers, Carter was briefed on the
economic, political and social crisis in the island, as well as on the
corrupt, repressive and exclusionist nature of the regime.

"We made it clear to Carter that a dictatorship rules Cuba and that no
sovereignty exists," Biscet said. "We were able to communicate some
things, a brief synthesis of our thoughts."

About the Cuban economic situation Biscet said that any adjustment must
be accompanied by policies that would guarantee, among other aspects,
people's fundamental rights, the legalization of independent groups and
organizations within the civil society, religious freedoms and the
release of all prisoners of conscience.

"We want comprehensive changes and a market system associated to
freedoms and things that lead to a harmonious and happy life in our
nation," he said.

Biscet, founder of the Lawton Foundation for Democracy and Human Rights,
accused the Cuban government of permitting acts of corruption and
trumping up charges to get the members of civil society and their
leaders out of the way.

"It benefits the government to have corrupt people because with such
characteristics they will not fight against them, and that is why they
are allowed to exist," he said. "And when they feel threatened that a
new leader could emerge within their party or among those who govern
with them, they attribute acts of corruption to them so they would not
have any followers."

Biscet said that as long as a totalitarian dictatorship exists in Cuba
there will always be a risk of raids and massive detentions of
independent journalists and opponents, as was the case of the Black
Spring of 2003.

Biscet was serving a 15-year sentence after he and 74 other dissidents
were arrested. Biscet had been arrested many times since 1998.

"Everything is possible here. They are willing to go to any extent to
never lose power," he said. "This is one of the reasons why they do not
sign any international or human-rights agreements, particularly those
addressing basic freedoms."

He said that despite the Cuban government's extreme vigilance of the
opposition movement, there is a social force — the younger generation —
escaping from the regime.

"The Cuban youth does not believe in the system, and the spirit they are
developing is not afraid of the government's pressure. The fear the
Castros wish to impose is not going to stop the wishes of the youth of
pursuing the general welfare, including the economic and psychological
perspectives," Biscet said. "The youths will create their own space to
accomplish their objectives."

Biscet also mentioned the work of the independent reporters and bloggers
on the , which threatens to bring down the government's
information monopoly that keeps the population uninformed of the
denunciations and criticism against the regime.

"They are giving the world different perspectives and ideas," Biscet
said. "And when these emerge everything else finds its place. This is
very important for us because, associated to the state terrorist
activities, the government wants to control all the information to
continue deceiving the population."

In 2007, the Bush administration gave Biscet the Medal of in
absentia in recognition of his opposition activities and his appeals to
civil disobedience.

Biscet said the U.S. government's financial support is essential to
promote democracy in Cuba. Recently Sen. John Kerry, who presides over
the Senate's Foreign Affairs Committee, announced his opposition to $20
million included in the 2012 budget to promote democracy in Cuba.

"Kerry must know that resources are needed for this type of fight and he
knows very well that Cubans in the island do not have those resources,"
Biscet said. "If we are able to resist it's because of our high morale
not because we have resources. Here we have to depend on people's mercy
to survive."

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