Sat Dec 10, 2005 8:29 PM ET
HAVANA (Reuters) – President Fidel Castro’s communist government is clinging to power by trampling on the rights of Cuba’s 11 million people, the top U.S. diplomat in Havana said on Saturday in his first public meeting with Cuban dissidents.
U.S. mission chief Michael Parmly said the targeting of opponents by angry mobs of government supporters sent to demonstrate outside their homes was a “particularly disgusting” practice that recalled Nazi brownshirts or the Ku Klux Klan.
“The Cuban regime does not represent the people,” Parmly said in a speech to dissidents and foreign diplomats marking International Human Rights Day at his residence.
“It maintains itself by isolating Cubans from the rest of the world, keeping Cubans artificially poor and dependent on a state that demands unquestionable compliance, and instilling fear among those who question the regime’s lies,” he said.
Wives of imprisoned political prisoners, known as the Ladies in White, attended the event along with Cuba’s leading dissidents, who said government repression worsened in 2005.
Rights groups say the one-party state is holding more than 300 people in prison for political reasons.
“The situation is deteriorating. We are seeing more repression every day by a government that is on its last legs,” said Vladimiro Roca, the son of one of the founding fathers of Cuban communism.
Dr. Hilda Molina, who pioneered neurosurgery in Cuba, said: “In my opinion, not a single human right is respected in Cuba. We have a government that operates entirely by whim.”
Molina quit the ruling Communist Party a decade ago because she disagreed with preferential treatment given to foreigners by Cuba’s medical system to generate hard currency.
The Cuban government has denied Molina’s requests to travel to Argentina to visit her son and see two grandchildren she has never met.
“The public health system is caring for foreigners and discriminates against Cubans,” she said.
The United States broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba shortly after Castro’s leftist revolution in 1959. The two ideological foes are represented by low-level interest sections opened in each capital in 1977.