Tuesday, March 2, 1999; Page A16
Castro Cuba has typically Communist notions of justice. By official doctrine, there are no political prisoners, only common criminals. President Castro rejects the designation of the four, in the international appeals for their freedom, as "prisoners of conscience." Their trial is closed to the foreign press. Some of their colleagues were reportedly arrested to keep them from demonstrating during the trial.
Fidel Castro is now making an energetic effort to recruit foreign businessmen to help him compensate for the trade and investment lost by the continuing American embargo and by withdrawal of the old Soviet subsidies. He is scoring some successes: British Airways, for instance, says it is opening a Havana service. Many of the countries engaged in these contacts with Cuba do so on the basis that by their policy of "constructive engagement" they are opening up the regime more effectively to democratic and free-market currents than is the United States by its harder-line policy.
The trial of the four provides a good test of this proposition. The four
are in the vanguard of Cuba's small nonviolent political opposition.
Acquittal would indicate that in this case anyway the authorities are
listening to the international appeals for greater political freedom. But
if the four are convicted and sentenced, it will show that the regime
won't permit any opposition at all. What then will the international crowd
have to say about the society-transforming power of their investments?
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