General Condemnation of Sentence against Dissidents
VATICAN CITY, MAR 17 (ZENIT).- The March 17 edition of L'Osservatore Romano reflects the international reaction to the sentence against the "Group of Four," given in Havana on March 1 for the crime of "sedition." As forecasted, the sentences have been handed down "as a warning": five years for Vladimiro Roca, four for Bonne and Gomez, and three and a half for Martha Roque.
The Vatican newspaper points out that the sentences were given because of the distribution of a document in 1997 entitled "The Fatherland is for All," requesting free elections and amnesty for political prisoners.
In a brief note on page 2, L'Osservatore Romano records the criticism of Madeleine Allbright, American Secretary of State who denounced the "unjust condemnation" of the four dissidents and appealed to the international community to pressure the Cuban regime in order to effect a democratic change.
The Vatican daily also reports on Canada's "harsh" reaction to the Havana court's sentence. Prime Minister Jean Chrétien announced his country will review its commercial relations with Cuba. "The Cubans have given the world a very bad message," he said in a statement recorded by L'Osservatore Romano. Canada is one of the principal commercial partners of the Caribbean island, and plays an important part in attenuating the consequences of the U.S. embargo on Cuba.
The new wave of repression has obliged the Spanish government to "suspend king Juan Carlos I's visit, which had been described as 'the event of the year' for Cuba."
Even the politically liberal "La Repubblica," which has praised Castro in the past, joined its voice in outrage at these condemnations. "Hope was held out only by those who wished to believe at all costs, against common sense and actual fact, in Fidel Castro's policy of 'opening to the world,' which has never amounted to anything concrete. It is merely the request of Pope John Paul II, to which the 'maximum leader' has never responded with gestures worthy of note," stated an editorial piece. "All that would have been necessary would have been a visit to Havana in the months immediately after the historic visit to realize that what had taken place was a great fraud. Since the day after, the week after the Pontiff's departure, Fidel Castro has spent all his energies turning the meaning of the event around, recalling only part of the key words used by John Paul II: 'May the world open to Cuba ...'"