Crushing dissent in Cuba

by The Boston Globe

WHILE THE Syrian government’s savage attacks on anti-government protesters have rightly drawn the world’s attention, it isn’t only on the other side of the world that dictatorial rulers have been bloodying their critics.

In Cuba in recent weeks, pro-government goons have been attacking members of Ladies in White, a nonviolent protest group made up of women whose husbands, brothers, and fathers are dissidents imprisoned by the Castro regime. In one attack, the Miami Herald reported last week, the women were assaulted with “steel bars, rocks, and fists’’ as they left Mass in the cathedral of Santiago, the island’s second-largest city. At least eight of the women ended up in the hospital, where they required stitches and other treatment for their wounds. According to Elizardo Sanchez, one of Cuba’s leading human-rights activists, the attacks have left dissidents deeply alarmed; they know that no one “would dare order such beatings and so much violence without the approval of the central government.’’

Unlike Syria, Cuba has not seen massive street demonstrations, nor have there been public demands for the overthrow of the government. The Ladies in White, who received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought from the European Parliament in 2005, are few and vulnerable; Cuban ruler Raul Castro has nothing to fear from them but their integrity and moral authority. That, however, they have in abundance, while the ruthless regime over which Castro and his brother Fidel have presided for more than half a century has long since lost any claim to the respect or admiration of the free world.