On the eve of the anniversary, Along the Malecón posts a tribute to Las Damas de Blanco (the Ladies in White), honouring their strength and courage in continuing to lobby for the release of their jailed loved ones:
I interviewed the group's leader, Laura Pollan, above left, during my last trip to Cuba. She and other members of the group say their lives changed when their loved ones were arrested and jailed in 2003. The women lost their fear. They began to march every Sunday despite the risk of arrest. Many say they have nothing to lose. And they vow not to give up until their relatives are freed.
For most Cubans, fighting the socialist government remains too painful, too risky. Many dissidents are shunned. They're routinely detained for questioning. Some are jailed. Others lose their jobs. They're put under surveillance. Their sons and daughters are harassed.
All this allows the government to contain the opposition.
Cuban officials contend that the vast majority of people support the socialist regime. They accuse the United States of financing what they describe as a ‘manufactured’ opposition.
Her words seem to have special significance in the context of reports that “on the eve of the the 6th anniversary of Cuba's Black Spring, 15 opponents of the Castro regime were arrested in Santa Clara.” Blog for Cuba says:
Their crime? Demanding that Cuba respect Human Rights conventions the Castro regime has previously agreed to on paper. Cuba has signed the Human Rights Conventions, when will they implement them? Didn't Raul Castro promise change?
The blogger also believes that six years after the Black Spring, there are still no human rights in Cuba:
All the media hype about change in Cuba notwithstanding, none of the 75 political prisoners have been released for any reason other than poor health or having finished serving their sentence, and 55 remain incarcerated under horrific inhumane conditions. There has been no easing of the harsh repression of dissent in Cuba.
The Cuban Triangle makes his position on the issue very clear:
There’s debate in Cuba, and I have heard some of it in the United States too, about the 75 and their activities, and there are allegations that they were acting as agents of a foreign power. I'm no fan of the Bush policy, which I think was counterproductive in almost every respect – but I don’t buy it, and I certainly don’t buy that such a charge could be brought and satisfactorily proved in the very brief time it took to arrest, try, and sentence these people. They deserve release.
Another diaspora blogger, A Cuban in London, provides his own perspective:
Although this blog is not overtly political, it is my belief that writers, artists, performers and journalists should be allowed to express their views on contemporary issues without any fear of backlash.
Of the more than 70 Cuban intellectuals arrested six years ago in what has become known as Cuba's Black Spring, more than twenty still remain in Cuban jails in sub-human conditions. They have been tortured and their human rights have been trampled upon. That is why tonight I, along with other bloggers join forces to demand that the Cuban government free all political prisoners that it still keeps in its jails and that it open the way to democracy by allowing its people to form and vote for political parties whose political manifesto is different from the official party line. Only by holding a mirror to itself can a society advance, become more independent and succeed. At present, alas, that is not the case in my country.
Uncommon Sense takes the opportunity to focus on the “hundreds, if not thousands more political prisoners jailed in Cuba because of their opposition to tyranny and dedication to freedom…”:
Their suffering is no less that that experienced by those arrested during the “black spring,” and they are no less deserving of your prayers and solidarity.
But the Group of 75 — which now stands at 55, after a series of medical paroles and Reinaldo Labrada Peña completing his sentence — is deserving of special consideration because they were at the front lines of the struggle to bring real change to Cuba, to bring nothing less than real democracy, freedom and human rights, whether they were activists gathering signatures for the Varela Project or journalists telling the story of Cuba, the real Cuba, for the world to know.
Seis años son muchos para cualquiera –hágase el ejercicio de recordar
todo lo que cada uno de nosotros ha hecho con su vida desde entonces.
Piénsese entonces en lo que significan para inocentes que fueron a
parar a cárceles infectas y cuyas vidas cambiaron de golpe entre el 18
y el 20 de marzo de 2003.
Cincuenta y cuatro de aquellos hombres continúan tras las rejas y de
ellos ni saben ni quieren saber sus compatriotas. Las movilizaciones
en Cuba con motivo de este funesto aniversario no involucrarán a más
personas que a los familiares de los presos -las ejemplares Damas de
Blanco- y poco más. Tampoco la diáspora cubana hará mucho más que
articular protestas que seguirán unos pocos.
Fifty four men continue behind bars and their compatriots neither know, nor want to know about them. The mobilizations in Cuba related to this terrible anniversary won't involve anyone except for the prisoners’ families – the exemplary Women in White – and a few more. The Cuban diaspora will not do much to articulate these protests.
The diaspora, though, appears to be doing what it can. Uncommon Sense, whose Black Spring post will remain on the blog's front page until the end of the week, says:
Fidel Castro's action in 2003 was not just an attack on Cuban liberty, it was an assault of freedom everywhere. As long as a single Cuban is jailed because of something he wrote or because he believed every Cuban should have a real vote, we are all less free.
He continues with a call to action:
That's why it is incumbent we all do something on behalf of the Group of 55:
Tell someone why the embargo should remain in place.
Tell someone that Raul Castro is no different than his big brother.
Tell someone Oscar Biscet's story. And those of his fellow prisoners.
Say a prayer.
Do something. Your freedom, our freedom, the freedom of the Group of 55, depends on it.