Christmas in Havana; The Miami Herald Editorial


The Miami Herald Editorial. Dec 21 / 2004

In the theater of the absurd that is totalitarian Cuba, even the celebration of Christmas can become a source of manipulation and control. A holiday display at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana includes a Santa Claus in a sleigh, the words ''Feliz Navidad'' and the numerals ''75'' commemorating the 75 pro-democracy activists jailed last year.

Calling the U.S. display a great ''provocation,'' Cuba's regime erected giant billboards across from it, featuring a red swastika, a ''fascists'' sign and pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Is this what Fidel Castro thinks of Christmas? Or is the dictator simply projecting?

There are big differences between the dueling displays. The only reason that the regime can exhibit those pictures is because of the free press in the United States. In Cuba, the regime jails independent journalists who dare to expose the government's many abuses, including 29 imprisoned for up to 28 years in last year's crackdown.

The dictator has refused to allow monitors such as the International Red Cross into Cuban prisons for decades. In fact, the regime didn't have to go as far as Iraq for photos of tortured prisoners. There are plenty of examples in Cuba's prisons.

The reality is that the regime's denunciations of U.S. decorations only call more attention to jailed dissidents. Inside Cuba, the openly displayed ''75'' defies regime propaganda.

By expressing solidarity with those so unjustly jailed, the United States shines a light on the lack of human rights for Cuba's people. Ordinary Cubans don't have to be told. They know who the ''75'' are and how Cuban ''justice'' is twisted to keep a dictator in power.

That's why the regime is so offended. Truth is one of the biggest threats to a totalitarian government. And the truth is that Castro has abused Cuba's people for nearly 46 years. Other diplomatic missions would do well to treat Castro as the dictator he is.