On the House floor last night, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R., Fla.) gave a speech. His subject was the persecution of Cuban democrats, and the general ignoring of this persecution by the American press. This has been a longstanding grievance of Cubans and Cuban Americans, and their supporters: Horrible things take place on that island, 90 miles from our shore; and yet we tend to look away (and wear our Che Guevara T-shirts). If a Palestinian kid skins his knee in Ramallah, we hear about it. But what about torture in the Cuban gulag? What about the suppression of a free press? Shouldn’t that arouse our own journalists, make them indignant?
In the course of his remarks, Diaz-Balart said, “Cubans have been stateless non-persons for almost 51 years. Their suffering is systematically ignored. Their unity of purpose is continuously questioned or ridiculed. Even the torture of their heroes, of the heroic political prisoners, is ignored.”
Then he started to name some names – of the ignored:
Martha Beatriz Roque, a respected economist and leading Cuban dissident and former political prisoner (who was only released from prison so she would not die in prison and embarrass Castro), is close to death in Havana due to complications arising from a hunger strike she is engaged in. . . .
I ask the press, the media, to please cease treating Cuba’s pro-democracy activists as though they did not exist. Stop treating Martha Beatriz Roque as a non-person.
Why do you continue to absolutely ignore Cuba’s brave prisoners of conscience? Why don’t you, at least, write about the elderly prisoners of conscience in Cuba, such as Hector Maseda Gutierrez, or Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique? Or about severely handicapped prisoners of conscience such as Miguel Galván Gutierrez? Or, most especially, about the gravely ill Cuban prisoners of conscience in the gulag such as Ariel Sigler or Normando Hernández? Or Dr. José Luis García Paneque? Or Dr. Alfredo Pulido Lopez, or Pedro Arguelles Morán?
Members of the press, have you no conscience? Do not continue to treat the suffering, oppressed people of Cuba and their heroes as non-persons. Please, do your duty.
A video of the congressman’s speech can be found here. I hesitate to post it, because Diaz-Balart mentions me in it. He says I have done a lot, about human rights. But, as I have said many times, the reality is that I have done fairly little: I have done some, and that is more than our mainstream press wants to do. I have related dribs and drabs about Cuba; but dribs and drabs are hard to find, in our media at large. Very strange.
I once asked Jeane Kirkpatrick about this. I said, “Why are the heroics of Cuban dissidents ignored in this free country, so close?” She answered, “It is both a puzzling and profoundly painful phenomenon of our times.” Yes.