03 Sep Looking back on Cuba’s Black Spring of 2003
From March 18th to March 20th 2003, the Cuban government arrested and imprisoned 75 dissidents who were peacefully reporting or expressing their opinions of the policies and practices of the then-Fidel Castro regime. This incident came to be known as the Black Spring, or “Primavera Negra.” The 75 people arrested and imprisoned were journalists, librarians, human rights activists, and pro-democracy demonstrators. They were charged with “acting as agents of the United States by accepting aid from the U.S. government” and were confined to various Cuban prisons for over a month. In response to this egregious injustice, Amnesty International adopted these demonstrators as “prisoners of conscience.” The Cuban government claimed that “the 75 individuals arrested, tried and sentenced in March/April 2003 … who were jailed are demonstrably not independent thinkers, writers or human rights activists, but persons directly in the pay of the US government … those who were arrested and tried were charged not with criticizing the government, but for receiving American government funds and collaborating with U.S diplomats.”
Since the Black Spring crackdown on Cuban dissidents coincided with the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it received far less media coverage than it deserved at the time. However, when the European Union received word of the alleged human rights violations in Cuba, they imposed sanctions against Cuba stating that the crackdown on Cuban activists “constituted a breach of the most elementary human rights, especially as regards freedom of expression and political association.” Unfortunately, the sanctions against Cuba were lifted in January 2008. Eventually of the dissidents were released from prison, and most of them exiled to Spain beginning in 2010. Sadly, the political climate in Cuba today is virtually the same as is was over 13 years ago during the Black Spring incident. In 2016 demonstrators and activists in Cuba are still rounded up by the police and thrown in prison in large numbers, as was the case a few days before Obama visited the island nation this past March.