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Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Op Ed on the Dissident Working Group in Cuba for Diario las Americas
March 5, 2000, Miami, Florida
Blue Line

Last Tuesday was the one year anniversary of the trial of the Dissident Working Group in Cuba. To mark this sad occasion, I sent a message to the Cuban people through Radio Marti. I reiterated that the trial, conviction and sentencing of Felix Bonne, Rene Gomez Manzano, Vladimiro Roca and Marta Beatriz Roque was an outrage. Their continued imprisonment is equally deplorable.

These four courageous democratic activists committed no act of violence; they did not seek to incite violence; they were not accused of plotting violence. They simply criticized the one-party nature of Cuba's political system and called for peaceful democratic change. In any other country, they would be called political opposition. In Cuba they are labeled criminals.

Th United States continues to call upon the Cuban government to respect and protect internationally recognized standards of human rights and to adopt democratic reforms. Promoting human rights is, and must remain, an integral part of U.S. foreign policy. When governments respect human rights, they contribute to a more stable, just and peaceful world.

For those who deny their citizens even the most basic rights, as in Cuba, repression is a choice. These governments have the power to choose. They have the responsibility to change and we have a responsibility -- which we are meeting -- to keep the spotlight turned on high until they do. We are not alone in this effort.

Last year, the international outcry against dictatorship in Cuba grew even stronger. In April, the UN Commission on Human Rights adopted a resolution, sponsored by the Czech Republic and Poland, expressing concern "at the continued violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba." It is particularly telling that two nations that so recently freed themselves from Communist domination took the initiative to sponsor the resolution.

Many other nations are also calling for change in Cuba. Last November, at the Ibero-American Summit in Havana, many world leaders met for the first time with Cuban dissidents and called on the Cuban government to show greater respect for human rights and democracy.

King Juan Carlos of Spain called for "full democracy" and "scrupulous respect" for human rights in all of Ibero-America, including Cuba. Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo stated "There can be no sovereign nation without free men and women, men and women who exercise their essential freedoms; freedom to think and give their opinions, freedom to dissent, freedom to choose."

The Cuban government does not only ignore such messages from world leaders, it continues to arrest more and more individuals for the "crime" of expressing their opinions. Just last week three human rights activists were tried for "public disorder," among other charges, for trying to organize a peaceful protest march. Oscar Biscet received three years in jail, Fermin Scull Zulueta one year and Eduardo Diaz Fleitas one year of house arrest. We condemn this unjust and unfounded act and the mounting wave of government detentions of dissidents.

There was a time, not long ago, when to some it seemed beside the point to raise the issue of human rights in a diplomatic or foreign policy setting. Today, it is clear that promoting democracy and human rights often is the main point, and the world is far better for it.

We must persist in our resolve to help carry the tide of democracy to Cuban shores and make Jose Marti's "dream for every Cuban to engage in politics in an entirely free manner" a reality.

[End of Document]
Blue Line

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