Montreal Gazette
Friday, April 02, 2004

Castro's daughter cries for Cuba's plight

She'll join discussion of press freedom that will focus on 27 jailed journalists
The Gazette

For publishing their opposing views of Fidel Castro's regime and its treatment of Cuba's people, 27 journalists were arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms in the Caribbean island.

That happened just over a year ago, on March 18, 2003. After the mass arrests, Reporters Without Borders gave Cuba the dubious distinction of being the world's biggest prison for journalists, with 30 reporters behind bars to date.

Tonight, that organization - which champions freedom of the press - has invited several people to Montreal to discuss the issue of journalistic freedom in Cuba. The guests include Castro's daughter, Alina Fernandez (Castro).

"At least we can try to keep those people alive by keeping them in the news," Fernandez said in a brief telephone interview this week from Miami, Fla., where she now lives in exile.

"We have to take every opportunity to let people know about the situation (in Cuba)."

The situation for those journalists, as well as numerous other political prisoners who have been behind bars for years, is particularly frustrating, Fernandez said, because the lack of international involvement.

"The most frustrating thing is no one - no countries, not the United Nations - is able to do anything about the situation facing our political prisoners," Fernandez said. "There are people who are dying and nobody can do anything because the Cuban regime has total impunity."

Today's journey will be Fernandez's first trip to Canada. Since escaping Cuba in 1993 disguised as a Spanish tourist, Fernandez has denounced the situation in her home country.

"Canada is one of the most powerful commercial associates of the regime," she said. "A lot of Canadian tourists go down to Cuba. I'm not trying to change any of that but just to let people know what's really going on."

The 27 arrested a year ago were charged with "acts against the independence and economy of Cuba" and "acts against the territorial integrity of the state."

"It's a country that hides behind a legend and has so for more than half a century," Fernandez said of her father, to whom she never refers by name.

The debate begins at 6 p.m. in the amphitheatre of the Henri Julien Pavilion, 4750 Henri Julien Ave., near the Mount Royal métro station. The event is free and open to the public, but donations are welcome. A 26-minute documentary titled One Party, One Newspaper: Cuban Press From the Republique to Castro, will be shown before the debate.

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