Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Cuba's Political Prisoners: Forgetfulness Is Never Acceptable

"I am hesitant to advocate for the release of one political prisoner over the other[s]. They all deserve to [be] free yesterday, and if one gets more attention than [do] the others, the risk is [that] the others will be forgotten." — Marc Másferrer @ Babalú, Sept. 18.

Forget about the ellipses.

Consider the thought that underlies the quoted statement.

Imagine if a doctor said that it pained him to cure only one cancer patient because that meant that the others will be forgotten. Suppose if a lawyer said that he was sorry to focus his attention on the case of one innocent man when there were so many other innocent men accused or convicted of crimes whose cases might be overshadowed by the attention given to his client. Assume a priest saying that he was grieved to have to concentrate on saving one soul at a time when there are so many unsaved souls in the world that might not be baptized because he tended to the spiritual needs of just one.

Why should paying attention to one particular Cuban political prisoners cause the rest to be forgotten? Wouldn't it have the exact opposite effect? Wouldn't putting the spotlight on one prisoner focus interest on the rest? Even if it didn't (for the sake of argument), wouldn't it focus attention on the system that oppresses the one prisoner, thereby benefitting all political prisoners?

Really I would have expected any of Babalu's editors except Marc Másferrer to make such a statement, and if anybody else had made that statement I would have suspected that it was an indirect criticism aimed at Marc.

No other Cuban blogger has dedicated more of his time and energy to highlighting the cases of individual political prisoner than has Marc Másferrer. As these profiles increase over time, the cumulative effect is a devastating indictment of the regime.

One would think that Marc, at least, realized this. Apparently not.

Or perhaps he meant to say something else and somehow thought and words did not adhere right. Let me, then, forcibly detach them, and see if I can't make them fit better.

Human rights organizations presently put the number of Cuban political prisoners at between 250-350. If you added an additional zero, or two or better still three, you would be closer to actual number of political prisoners in Castro's jails. The definition of a "political crime" used by human rights organization to "adopt" individual prisoners is simply too narrow and unrealistic. It does not take into consideration the myriads of so-called "crimes" in Cuba's penal code which would not come under that rubric in any other country's. For example, "economic sabotage," treated as "theft" in Cuba, can simply mean buying a steak on the black market. That particular "crime" can get you 10 years in a Cuban prison. A citizen who tries to leave or enter the country without the regime's permission, or even to move from one province to another, or from one town to the next, or from one house to another across the street, is deemed a criminal in Cuba but no one else on earth. Aren't persons guilty of such "crimes" also political prisoners? Even the imprisoned black marketeer, who challenges the regime's economic monopoly, isn't he also a political prisoner? If independent journalists or librarians are political prisoners, why not anybody else who works independently of the regime and is penalized for it? There are no doubt independent plumbers, independent cable installers and independent construction workers who are rotting in jail besides the independent journalists and librarians. Men who are not intellectuals, who wield other weapons than paper and pen, should also be classified as politicval prisoners. Yet they are not recognized as political prisoners and have no advocates publicizing their plight in the free world. Worst of all, they are completely invisible unlike those who receive the "seal of approval" of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, etc.

The point that I think — that I hope — Marc was trying to make is that he regrets that he must focus his attention on (relatively) well-known cases such as Normando Hernández's and is obliged to ignore the forgotten political prisoners, unnamed and unchampioned. And, what's worse, unknown.


Charlie Bravo said...

I think that Marc was warning us that there are more prisoners that the "visible" ones. I would venture to say that the whole island is a floating prison, with "exterior penal" and "interior penal" as it was said on my times.
"Todos estamos en la misma celda", as sung by Gorki.
After reading several of his posts, I believe that Marc agonizes over the sheer number of prisoners, and about the monumental task that he has singlehandedly taken, on which he does a great job, actually.

Vana said...

Once while reading the story of a Holocaust survivor (I've read many) this words struck me, By saving one life at a time, you save the entire world, I believe that applies to our political prisoners, by saving one, you learn of the rest, as Charlie says, the whole Island is one big prison cell, they all need to be rescued.

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