Opinion

Commentary: Cuba's 'softening' is all offensive, no charm

Cuba's attempt to put a kinder, gentler face on the Castro brothers' hard-line government is beginning to look more and more like a flop.

The regime would have the world believe that it has a generous side, allowing some 26 political prisoners to go free in recent weeks as a gesture of magnanimity. More releases are promised. This is all good and well, but meanwhile, in the shadows, the thugs who do the regime's dirty work conduct business as usual. Every whisper of protest is stifled by state-sanctioned repression.

The latest display of intolerance occurred this week when five Cuban dissidents were arrested for demanding freedom while standing on the steps in front of the University of Havana. As Fidel Castro well knows, the university was not only a symbol of intellectual independence in the old days, but also enjoyed autonomy from police intervention and nurtured anti-government dissent.

Castro's revolution put an end to that. No autonomy, no intellectual freedom and certainly no cries for liberty, not in a place fraught with such historic significance and once identified with freedom of thought.

More troubling is the government's shameful harassment of Reina Luisa Tamayo, the outspoken mother of Orlando Zapata Tamayo, a prisoner of conscience who died in February after a prolonged hunger strike in prison.

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