The Corner

Brave Ladies (Uncommonly Brave)

In the past couple of weeks, I have had occasion to write about actos de repudio — “acts of repudiation,” in which vicious Cubans do terrible things to decent Cubans. The vicious Cubans, of course, are servants of the Castro dictatorship. They help keep anyone with any independent ideas in line, or cowed.

Yesterday, the Associated Press circulated an article, written by Anne-Marie Garcia and Paul Haven. It begins, “Cuba stepped up its campaign against the island’s small dissident community on Sunday, with pro-government demonstrators screaming insults at the ‘Ladies in White’ opposition group a day after state television aired a program denouncing them as agents of Washington.”

The Ladies in White are the wives and mothers of political prisoners, who walk through the streets on a Sunday, in solidarity with their jailed and tortured loved ones. They received the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought (given by the European Parliament) in 2005.

The AP article continues, “About 100 pro-government demonstrators surrounded the Ladies as they marched in Havana’s Vedado neighborhood, shouting slogans like ‘Down with the Worms!’ and ‘This Street Belongs to Fidel!’ as well as some sexually offensive slogans.”

Oh, yes — the sexually offensive slogans are de rigueur. So is the epithet “worms,” or gusanos. It has always been applied to Cuban democrats, anyone who dares oppose the dictatorship. I first heard the word in my hometown of Ann Arbor, long ago. Free World supporters of the dictatorship mouth the lingo of the Cuban Communists themselves.

More from the AP: “The ugliness, known as an ‘Act of Repudiation,’ is an oft-repeated spectacle in Cuba. The government contends the screaming crowd turns out spontaneously to denounce the opposition, though little is done to conceal coordination with state security agents who are also on the scene.

“In past demonstrations, state agents have waved for supporters to come forward once it became clear the Ladies would not heed warnings to halt their march.”

I am quite amazed that this report came from the AP. For years, there were two correspondents in Havana who filled Cuban democrats with bewilderment and disgust. One worked for the AP; the other worked for CNN. Cuban democrats maintained that these two — both women — were virtually spokesmen for the dictatorship, and poison to the opposition. The CNN lady left for al-Jazeera several years ago. About the AP lady, I don’t know.

As a rule, honest foreign correspondents don’t last very long in a totalitarian dictatorship. If you report honestly — you’re booted. Of course, worse things can happen too. Remember when that CNN executive said that his people had refrained from reporting human-rights abuses in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq? And you know that Ted Turner, CNN’s founder, has boasted of his friendship with Castro, one of the real monsters of recent history.

Anyway, these matters are too big and important for a mere blogpost. I just want to say I’m grateful for yesterday’s AP report: an honest account of life in Cuba, from an unexpected source.

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