James Forsyth

Harriet Harman needs a moral compass

Harriet Harman needs a moral compass
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Harriet Harman comes out with one of the most disgraceful statements by a government minister in a while, in today’s Independent. Here’s the exchange:

Now, Castro is not some cuddly Marxist but a brutal dictator. Harman’s statement is either an expression of extreme ignorance or of a double standard which sees no evil on the left. 

The Freedom in the World survey gives a few examples of the kind of regime that Castro ran:

All political organizing outside the PCC is illegal.Political dissent, spoken or written, is a punishable offense, and those so punished frequently receive years of imprisonment for seemingly minor infractions.

Access to the internet remained tightly controlled. It is illegal for Cubans to connect to the internet in their homes.

In 2003, state security forces raided 22 independent libraries and sent 14 librarians to jail with terms of up to 26 years

In March 2003, the government initiated a crackdown against the prodemocracy opposition. Seventy-five people, including 27 independent journalists, 14 independent librarians, and more than 40 signature collectors for the Varela Project, were sentenced to an average of 20 years in prison following one-day trials held in April. (At the end of 2004, 61 of the activists who were arrested remained in prison; 14 won conditional release for health-related reasons, and two subsequently left Cuba.)

In 2004, 22 independent journalists arrested in March 2003 remained imprisoned in degrading conditions, which included physical and psychological abuse; acts of harassment and intimidation were also directed against their families. In April, two journalists held without trial since March 2002 were finally tried by a court in Ciego de Avila on charges of insulting Castro and the police and creating public disorder; one received a three-year prison sentence and the other a sentence of three and a half years.

For once, demands for an apology do not seem overblown. Her remarks were not worthy of her or her office.

Fidel Castro: hero of the left, or dangerous authoritarian dictator?

David Newton

Edinburgh

Harman: Hero of the left – but time for Cuba to move on.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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