Da The Miami Herald del 20/05/2005
Originale su http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/news/editorial/11691523.htm

A summit in Cuba to plan democracy

Our opinion: Eu, latin america should stand with the dissidents

The world will witness a momentous event today in Cuba, if all goes as planned. More than 300 representatives of opposition groups plan to meet on the outskirts of Havana. Appropriately, this bold summit starts on Cuba's Independence Day. The goal is to create a plan to spread democracy and civic action. Ultimately, the dissidents are fighting to liberate Cuba's people from fear and tyranny. European and Latin American governments should show solidarity with their cause.

Organized by the Assembly to Promote Civil Society, the group's methods are peaceful: open dialogue, exchange of ideas, support from abroad. They have defied the Cuban government's spies, intimidation, harassment and threats. These grass-roots dissidents are the island's true freedom fighters -- particularly prime leaders Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello, René Gómez Manzano and Félix Bonne Carcassés. All have overcome their fear of reprisal. They have exposed the lie that Cuba is a socialist paradise.

The three leaders have been imprisoned for criticizing the government's abuse of power. Yet they testified via phone to the U.S. Congress last year. Ms. Roque was among 75 dissidents rounded up in the government crackdown in 2003 and now is out on conditional release from a 20-year sentence. Any of them could easily be thrown into a punishment cell for organizing this event.

Their efforts, and those of all the assembly participants, shouldn't be overshadowed by any regime smoke screen. Nor should news of anti-Castro militant Luis Posada Carriles distract from the dissidents' goal. Any regime attempt to disrupt the event should be roundly denounced by governments that value democracy, such as Spain and Brazil.

The last time dissidents tried to meet on this scale was the Concilio Cubano event in 1996. The government jailed Concilio leaders and shot down two Brothers to the Rescue planes. Thus, the event fell apart. Yet the dissident and civic movements have continued to grow in Cuba.

This time, state-security agents have bugged, followed, harassed and sown divisiveness among dissidents. That's business as usual. But, as of Thursday, no widespread arrests had been reported. The regime recently deported two EU Parliament members and refused to authorize travel requests by former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Czech President Vaclav Havel -- all of whom were to attend the assembly.

When the EU reviews its Cuba policy next month, it should remember that diplomatic dialogue works when both sides are willing to give and take. Such engagement is futile when one party has remained in power for 46 years with no intention of sharing it. The EU -- along with Latin American nations -- should support the work of Cuba's dissidents by condemning the regime for its abuses.

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