A little more than a year ago, poet and journalist Raúl Rivero Castañeda wrote that he refused to let America's embargo against Cuba define the international debate over the fate of the island's 11 million people. "In this country, the real blockade, the one that affects the daily life of the people is the internal governing system," he declared. Since then, Rivero has endured his own private blockade.
Cuba's internal system is one that Rivero managed to avoid annoying too much until March of this year. But over three days that month, the Cuban government arrested Rivero and 27 other independent journalists. By April, all had been sentenced to 14-27 years in prison. The journalists were part of a spring sweep that turned 75 Cubans-including librarians, writers, and other professionals-into political prisoners.
For Rivero and journalists who smuggled their missives abroad, it was their insistence on writing what they saw and felt that put them in jail. That fidelity to the truth could now kill them. Rivero and journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 62, are both ill, their families tell visitors. Rivero, who has lost much weight, has circulatory problems, and Espinosa suffers from a worsening liver disease.
Castro must realize that even if he relents and sets Rivero and others free, they are likely to stay. Rivero has long understood that Castro may be the Father of the Cuban Revolution, but that the revolution's children are increasingly restive. Castro can deny their simple truths like a Cuban King Lear, but Rivero and others persist. They witness. They write.