Chilean president ignores Cuban political prisoners
Cuban dissidents expressed disappointment that Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is not interested in meeting with them during her official visit to the island, adding that her personal history as victim of political persecution makes the issue even more regretful.
Opposition economist Oscar Espinosa Chepe said the Chilean leader's decision was "most regrettable ... (and) inconsistent" particularly since dissidents in Cuba "are suffering now what she suffered" during the 1973-1990 dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. "She's a person who has much prestige in Cuba within the dissident movement. She herself was a prisoner, tortured by the Pinochet regime. Her father, an Air Force commodore was also tortured and murdered" said Espinosa, one of the 75 opposition figures imprisoned during 2003 repression wave but was later released for health reasons. "We greatly regret this decision and are very sorry about it, although we'll continue to have a high opinion of her as president" he said. Meanwhile, Vladimiro Roca, the head of the Agenda for the Transition, speaking with the Spanish news agency Efe said that Bachelet's "indifference" to the internal Cuban dissident movement "means abandonment" and is something "unexpected," given the "record in defence of human rights that she has had". "She's a person who suffered the effects of a dictatorship. She lost her father, suffered prison and torture and was under an oppressive regime and later exiled in Eastern Germany. Her history is what makes us feel disappointed, because with that history we were hoping for more solidarity" Roca said. Bachelet on Tuesday night began an official 72-hour visit to Cuba to promote trade and political links and on Thursday is scheduled to open the International Book Fair, which this year is dedicated to Chile. The Chilean government made clear weeks ago that Bachelet was not scheduled to meet with the dissidents, arguing that during a state visit the protocol established by the hosts must be adhered to. "We're asking for a meeting with her and we've had no response," Marta Beatriz Roque, also with the Agenda for the Transition, which requested a meeting with Bachelet weeks ago, told reporters. Another leading dissident figure, Oswaldo Paya, the head of the Christian Liberation Movement, confirmed some days ago that "out of dignity" his group did not request a meeting with the Chilean president. Paya said that several years ago the Chilean Embassy in Havana broke off contacts with his group, a move that he interprets as "a clear message that it is a government that doesn't want to have anything to do dissidents and rather scorns them".