- The Washington Times - Friday, April 18, 2003

With the one-year anniversary of former President Jimmy Carter's trip to Cuba fast approaching, we realize that history has repeated itself and Cuba's brutal dictator Fidel Castro has played Mr. Carter once again as a fool.
The first time was in 1980, when after relations (or in the diplomatic speak, "interests") were established with Mr. Castro, then-President Carter saw over 124,000 Cuban immigrants leave Mr. Castro's island-fortress on shabbily constructed rafts in an effort to build a better life in the United States. Many if not most of these immigrants left Mr. Castro's brutality and successfully became part of the American dream. However, a small amount of these immigrants were sent to the United States directly from Cuba's jails and mental institutions. Sending these individuals to the United States not only freed Mr. Castro from having to provide appropriate services to these people, but it also allowed him to laugh at how he just duped Mr. Carter into believing that his agreement to have relations with the United States was well-intended.
Today, we again see Mr. Castro laughing at Mr. Carter and his nescient ways. The brutal dictator not only has cracked down on free speech and actions, but has also demoralized and segregated those individuals who peacefully have strived to lead others in Cuba to the warmth of freedom.
Specifically, the Castro regime has recently sentenced journalists, economists and other human-rights activists to prison for 27 years for doing what many of us do on a daily basis in the United States: speak freely to our fellow citizens and petition our own government.
A case in point is Hector Palacios, a leader and organizer of the Varela Project, who was recently sentenced to 25 years in prison. The Varela Project is an effort to use constitutional avenues to bring actual freedoms of speech and association, amnesty for political prisoners and leeway for free enterprise and the citizens of that nation. While most of us in the United States will agree that these are basic rights, it has taken Mr. Palacios and his patriots much sacrifice to garner the 11,600 signatures that were part of this petition filed with the Cuban government. While the government has sat idly on the petition, its actions toward those who have brought it forward have been anything but idle. This has clearly been demonstrated by the recent crackdown on those who wish to bring freedom to a nation and its people, who are suffocating in a desert of oppression.
While Mr. Castro has initiated this sea of brutality, Mr. Carter and his Nobel Peace Prize have remained silent. This is despite the fact that his op-ed piece published in The Washington Post upon his return from the communist island stated that, "there are indications of openness and reform in Cuba" as well as Cubans being "permitted to hear a clear voice calling for freedom of speech and assembly, the organizations of labor unions and opposition political parties."
During his visit to Cuba, Mr. Carter publicized the Varela Project during his speech to the Cuban people and even met with Mr. Palacios. Mr. Castro's actions contradict Mr. Carter's assertions about Cuba. And accordingly, Mr. Carter should either retract his previous words or issue a new statement expressing his outrage over Mr. Castro's actions.
Otherwise Mr. Palacios and his band of visionaries will continue to sit in jail cells for promoting freedom and ask themselves, "Mr. Carter, where is the outrage? Where is the outrage, you fool?"

Bart Gobeil is active in the international community in Atlanta.

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