A Dying Dictatorship

Letter From Cuba

Avenida 21, number 3014, is a nondescript house in an Havana suburb.  The paint is peeling; the walls are plain; the rooms are sparse.  Inside lives Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz, a Cuban dissident working to free the Cuban people.  The task is not easy.  Despite the collapse of communism elsewhere, here “political repression has been increasing,” says San-chez.  People are routinely detained; independent journalists and human-rights activists are beaten and jailed.  Tracey Eaton, the Dallas Morning News correspondent in Havana, observes that you “couldn’t get anyone from our world to say that human rights are flourishing.”  Vicki Huddleston, until recently head of the U.S. Interests Section in Cuba, agrees: “This government is very good at intimidation.”

That intimidation has not prevented Cubans from risking their lives, freedom, and property to fight for human rights.  Sanchez is known as the dean of human-rights activists and heads the Cuban Com-mission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation.  Of medium stature and with gray, receding hair, the 59-year-old Sanchez doesn’t look like someone who would strike fear in the Cuban government.  But, as Sanchez notes, while the regime took power in 1959 in a genuinely popular revolution, “the base of support of the government has been shrinking” ever since.


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