- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 16, 2002

A leading Cuban dissident, who fled the island and later represented the United States as ambassador to the U.N. human rights panel in Geneva, urged Washington yesterday to resist calls to end its economic embargo of Cuba.
Armando Valladares, who spent 22 years as a political prisoner in Cuban jails, said it would be hypocritical for the West to treat Cuba differently from Chile, Haiti, South Africa, Iraq and other nations where sanctions helped battle political repression.
"Economic sanctions on those countries were supported by the entire international community. But for Cuba, the criteria change," Mr. Valladares said. "It is hypocritical and racist to put Cuba in a category that does not merit the solidarity of the world."
Mr. Valladares, who spoke at a forum hosted by the Heritage Foundation, said many international leaders care more for the Taliban and al Qaeda terrorists being held at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba than for the political prisoners still suffering under Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
"These same people are not concerned with the hundreds upon hundreds of innocent people in jails in Cuba," he said.
He was particularly critical of the Mexican government for turning 130 asylum seekers at its embassy in Havana over to Cuban authorities earlier this month.
"The Embassy of Mexico [in Havana] continues to be a branch of the Cuban police," he said.
Mr. Valladares was arrested by the Cuban police in 1960 for opposing Mr. Castro's communist revolution and spent the next 22 years in prison.
Upon his release in 1982, he wrote the book "Against All Hope," which became a best-selling eyewitness account of the brutality of the Cuban regime.
After President Reagan read the book, he appointed Mr. Valladares U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.
The commission begins its annual meeting on Monday and the United States is pressing for a resolution this year that would condemn Cuba for human rights violations.
Running down a list of Cuba's activities against innocent civilians, he said that the Cuban government shoots down unarmed civilian aircraft and sinks boats carrying women and children. He said the nation, which remains on the State Department's list of nations that sponsor terrorism, trains and harbors terrorists.
"Cuba protects, promotes and practices terrorism," he said.
Tom Carter contributed to this article.


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