Canada, Spain condemn Cuba's sentencing of four dissidents
From Herald Wire Services
The governments of Canada and Spain on Tuesday rejected the sentences
imposed by a Cuban court against four dissidents convicted of sedition.
``Regrettable'' was the adjective Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien
Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar both used when referring to the
punishment ordered Monday for Vladimiro Roca, Rene Gomez Manzano, Felix
Bonne and Marta Beatriz Roque.
Roca, son of the late Communist Party leader Blas Roca, was sentenced to
years. Gomez Manzano and Bonne received four years, and Beatriz Roque was
sentenced to 3 1/2 years. All were charged with sedition.
Chretien did not go so far as to threaten a total break with Havana. Speaking
reporters in Ottawa after a Cabinet meeting, he suggested there is still room for
``We have a strategy of constructive participation, and when something
happens, we have some flexibility. We can react,'' he said. ``If we didn't have
relations with [Cuba], we couldn't react.''
Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy addressed the Cuban government
obliquely, saying that ``if you're going to be a member of the hemispheric
community, then you have to play by the rules. The willingness to accept some
form of political dissent or difference of opinion is one of those rules.''
Canada ``will be reviewing some of the discussions that we started last
about hemisphere integration,'' Axworthy said, alluding to a proposal to bring
Cuba into the Organization of American States.
In Madrid, Aznar described the sentences as ``incomprehensible,'' ``heavy
harsh,'' and said they represented a ``profound and regrettable backward step of
the situation in Cuba.'' He warned that they might lead Spain's royal couple to
cancel their visit to Cuba, scheduled for spring.
``It would be my wish that [King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia] might go,
political duty is to make sure that all the circumstances are favorable,'' Aznar said.
``It is not by happenstance that the royal couple haven't traveled to Cuba
years,'' he added. ``Therefore, this trip should not be made casually, either.''
Aznar's views were echoed by Guillermo Cortazar, a legislator for the ruling
Popular Party who is also president of the Spanish-Cuban Foundation.
``Under these circumstances of conviction and repression, it does not seem
for the announced visit by the royal couple to take place,'' he said, ``unless an
immediate pardon is granted to the four defendants.''
In Rome on Tuesday, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of the Left, Cesari
Salvi, said that a group of Italian senators scheduled to visit Cuba this month
should be allowed to meet with the imprisoned dissidents.
``We must express concern and alarm at . . . the sentences,'' Salvi said.
struggle for civil rights does not have and should not have geographic or political
In Brazil, lawmaker Marcos Rolim of the leftist Workers Party said the
trial ``is a
blot on the conscience of nations and a farce. It demonstrated that in Cuba there is
a totalitarian regime that respects nothing.'' Thirteen Workers Party legislators
condemned the trial last week and asked the Brazilian Foreign Ministry to file an
official protest with Havana.
In Argentina, the president of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo Association,
de Bonafini, said she and her organization are against ``any kind of persecution
[or] detention of political dissidents in any part of the world.''
An editorial in the Uruguayan daily El Observador said that ``few doubts
about the Cuban system'' because ``the regime is clearly a dictatorship, plain and
In Washington, Rep. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., wrote to the Baltimore Orioles
asking them to cancel their games against the Cuban national baseball team to
express disapproval of the Cuban court's ruling. The games are scheduled for
March 28 in Havana and May 3 in Baltimore.
``If the government of the United States, Orioles owner Pete Angelos and
Major League Players Association go ahead with their plans to play the scheduled
exhibition games, they will be legitimizing and giving money to a regime that's
determined to silence any opposition to its Communist system,'' Menendez wrote.