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Private: Cuban dissidents long to hear Pope Francis preach religious liberty: Column

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Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

September 21, 2015, USA Today

Like any pair of dictator-bullies, the Castro brothers can freely make jokes and speak about others, but will detain, beaten up, censor or imprison anyone who dares to do the same about them. This should come as no surprise. Fidel’s first dictatorial actagainst free journalism came in 1959 when he started by muzzling, not the main newspaper of Cuba, but Zig-Zag, the weekly Cuban version of Mad magazine, which had dared to run its first (and last) cartoon of Fidel.

Apparently this kind of free speech is something we as Americans should no longer find worthy of defense in Cuba. While we rightly grieved in solidarity with many nations for the murdered cartoonists and journalists of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, inspiring “Je suis” pins, posters and Facebook postings, our government has remained silent when Cuban journalists, artists and writers have been censored and imprisoned.

For instance, mum has been the word when it comes to the arrest of young Cuban graffiti artist, “El Sexto.” According to reports smuggled out of Cuba, El Sexto, who has a wife and infant daughter, was imprisoned last December on a charge of contempt for having tried to carry out a performance with two pigs painted with the names of “Fidel” and “Raul.” Months after his arrest he has not been taken before a court. A few weeks ago according to his mother, he went on a hunger strike.