Monday, April 02, 2007

The Lives of Cubans

Today's WSJ has an excellent article once again written by Mary Anastasia O'Grady where she compares the lives of Cubans under the Cuban equivalent of the DDR's Stasi as depicted in the recent film, the lives of others. Some salient points:

Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's 2007 Academy Award winning film, "The lives of Others," recalls the bitterness of East German life under the Stasi. But it is also a reminder of the evils totalitarianism inflicts wherever it lands. When I watched it in a New York cinema recently, I saw Fidel Castro's ruthless Ministry of the Interior -- the Cuban equivalent of the Stasi -- in every frame.

Take, for example, the moment when Stasi police rifle playwright Georg Dreyman's apartment in search of an "illegal" typewriter, after they have broken his fearful girlfriend in a skillful interrogation.

That heart-pounding scene evokes images of Cuba's "black spring," only four years
ago, when the ministry's secret police descended on the homes of scores of writers, journalists, peaceful activists and poets, seizing their typewriters, fax machines, paper and ink. Seventy-five were arrested, run through summary trials and handed sentences averaging 20 years.

Today almost all those judged guilty are still rotting in rodent-infested dungeons, largely forgotten by the outside world, while Western audiences recoil in horror at the police state depicted by Mr. Henckel von Donnersmarck. My guess, based on the little we already know, is that when the long tropical totalitarian nightmare finally
ends, the cruelty unveiled will make the East Germans look like amateurs.

A report released over the weekend by the Web site Cuba Archive on the murder of 37 civilians who tried to flee the island aboard a tugboat in 1994 suggests just how horrid the the truth is likely to be.
* * *
The intentional sinking of the "March 13th" reveals a government policy of murdering refugees, not unlike the East German practice of shooting those who tried to make it over the Berlin Wall. The only difference is that the Cuban government seems to be running up the score. While there are 227 documented cases of East Germans killed for trying to clear the Wall, Cuba Archive has already documented the deaths of 233 Cubans executed for trying to flee the island. According to Ms. Werlau, there are likely many more. Without a central place to report lost loved ones, there is no way of knowing how many Cubans are missing, let alone killed. Should family members one day be free to come forward, Ms. Werlau says, the total of disappeared will almost certainly climb, even if their fates may
never be known. For now that number is Fidel's dirty little secret.

In opening East German archives, researchers have found that the Castro regime
worked closely with the Stasi in the 1970s to perfect surveillance and interrogation techniques and on other methods of enhancing fear. Let's remember that the fall of the Wall was not the end of all that. The Stasi's ideals, so grimly portrayed in Mr. Henckel von Donnersmarck's film, live on in Cuba today.

I'm waiting for the March 13 film to be made. Wonder if anyone in Hollywood would agree to pitch in to finance the project?

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