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Cuba has been severely criticized in the area of freedoms of the press, assembly, religion, thought and expression, especially "in the battle of ideas" if those ideas differ from socialism and atheism. Dissidents are harassed or imprisoned routinely in Cuba. Nonetheless, more and more people in Cuba are speaking out, writing and publishing literature demanding a more open Cuban society and reform as proposed by the Varela Project. Many brave Cuban citizens are no longer afraid of the consequences.

A recent area of controversy was the cancellation by Cuba of a January 2000 meeting of USA newspaper editors which was to be held in Havana during January 23-30, 2000. The following copyrighted article is from the Miami Herald:

Cuba cancels visit by newspaper editorial writers
Herald Staff Report
Cuba has canceled a visit by 38 U.S. newspaper editorial writers in retaliation for The Herald's coverage of Cuba's earlier refusal to grant a visa to a Herald editorial writer as part of the delegation.

Members of the National Conference of Editorial Writers (NCEW) delegation scheduled to visit Cuba Jan. 23-30, 2000 were advised of the cancellation Thursday in an e-mail message signed by trip leader Bob Kittle of The San Diego Union-Tribune and Dave Hage, of The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, chairman of the group's international affairs committee.

``The NCEW's planned trip to Cuba later this month has been canceled after the Cuban government said it would deny visas to all 38 members of the NCEW delegation,'' the message said. ``The Castro government took the action after The Miami Herald published a news story and editorial regarding Cuba's earlier refusal to allow a Herald editorial writer to take part in the trip.''

Kittle said he had been notified of the cancellation this week by a representative of the Cuban government who cited three reasons:

The Herald's effort to join the trip.

A statement by Hage to a Herald reporter expressing the NCEW's disappointment that Cuba had denied The Herald a visa.

Concern by Cuban authorities that NCEW members were making ``parallel'' reporting arrangements, with assistance from the U.S. State Department, separate from the official briefings arranged by the Cuban government.

Tom Fiedler, Herald editorial page editor, said Thursday that The Herald had attempted ``from the beginning to reassure all of [the delegation members] that we didn't want the Cuban government's problems with this newspaper to in any way interfere with their opportunity to evaluate firsthand the results of 41 years of Castroism.''

``Although it was against our wishes,'' Fiedler said, ``many of them urged that NCEW cancel the trip entirely, arguing that to allow the Cuban government to select who could participate was a dangerous precedent.

``So it's ironic that the Castro government preempted that debate by canceling the visas of our colleagues seemingly out of its irritation over those protests. That act describes more eloquently than words the Cuban government's contempt for the free press,'' Fiedler said.

Kittle and Hage, in their message Thursday to delegation members, called such a ``last-minute reversal of this kind by a foreign government . . . unprecedented in NCEW experience.''

The Herald had submitted a visa application for Susana Barciela, a Cuban-American member of The Herald's editorial board, to participate in the delegation, and offered Fiedler as an alternate.

Hage, in comments to The Herald that were cited as among the reasons for the trip's cancellation, said the group was ``very frustrated and disappointed'' and that the rejection would ``absolutely be an issue of discussion in some form'' when delegation members met with Cuban officials.

A Dec. 28 Herald editorial on the rejection asked in a headline: What is Castro Afraid Of?

The editorial called the rejection ``another example of the Castro regime's determination to try to control the flow of information from the island by selecting who can report it.''

On Thursday, Herald Publisher Alberto Ibargüen issued the following statement:

``Fidel Castro is a dictator. Nothing better illustrates how totalitarians act than when they're subjected to inquiry by a free press: They shut everything down so they can control totally. This ham-handed refusal to let open-minded editorial writers have a peek inside their closed society is typical of this regime. People who believe in democracy, yet romanticize the revolutionary Castro, should remember this incident.''

Published January 7, 2000 Miami Herald

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