- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 9, 2003

Reporters Without Borders, a French human rights organization, has begun a campaign to publicize Cuban human rights abuses to Europeans headed to the Caribbean island.

The campaign includes public service announcements shown in European movie theaters, garish Socialist-style posters on the Champs Elysees and postcards handed out at Charles de Gaulle International Airport.

“The postcards say, ‘You are going to Cuba for the rum and for the salsa, but you should know it is a country without human rights,’” Regis Bourgeat, a Reporters Without Borders spokesman, said by telephone from Paris yesterday.

The postcards are handed to tourists as they board Cubana de Aviacion airplanes. Many of the Europeans are headed for Cuba’s beach resorts, cigar factories and clubs.

“We want people to know that behind this romantic image of Cuba, you have a police state,” Mr. Bourgeat said.

He said the Cuban government has accused his organization of cooperating with the “Miami mafia” in trying to orchestrate a U.S. invasion of Cuba, but the French response at the airport has been mixed.

“Some say nothing, the pro-Cuban government ones get angry and some agree with the campaign,” Mr. Bourgeat said, adding that the campaign will expand to other European countries and Canada.

Attempts to contact someone at the Cuban Interests Section in Washington yesterday were unsuccessful.

The French campaign, which began in June, is in response to the Cuban government’s crackdown on the opposition in March.

Seventy-five dissidents, including some 30 journalists, were arrested. Many were sentenced to the island gulag for periods of up to 27 years. At the same time, three black Cubans were executed for hijacking a ferry in an attempt to escape the island.

“With the crackdown, the image of Cuba in Europe started to change in a big way,” Mr. Bourgeat said. “You have a change in the European left, the French Communist Party, the Portuguese Communist Party. The French intellectual left has changed, but the French population may not know what is going on.”

The postcards and posters are bright red and black, and combine images from two left-wing college dorm favorites, one of Cuban Revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara and another from Paris’ May 1968 riots depicting French police as Nazis.

The result is a 1960s-style poster of Guevara wielding a police truncheon. The caption says, “Welcome to the World’s Largest Prison For Journalists.”

“It is a way for us to say that the Cuban regime is fascist,” Mr. Bourgeat said.

“Che is nowadays just an icon used by the authorities to legitimize repression,” a statement by his group said.

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