Lula Irks Friends and Foes by Comparing Cuban Dissidents to Criminals

Guillermo Fariñas The president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has become entangled in a controversy for having compared Cuban political prisoners with jailed criminals and was even severely criticized by members of his own party.

In a long interview with the Associated Press agency Lula said the Cuban legal and penitentiary system should be respected and criticized hunger strikes as a means of protest to call attention on human rights abuses.

But in spite of the public controversy and the uproar over the confusion, the ruling coalition did not vote in Congress a condemnation of the Cuban regime over the lack of freedom and basic rights.

Raul Jungmann from the Brazilian opposition Socialist Popular Party presented a motion before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Lower House condemning “human rights violations in Cuba” but the coalition headed by Lula’s Workers’ party vetoed the initiative.

“It is regretful and disappointing that the congressional support of government refuses to see the flagrant human rights violations in Cuba as if we had enough with the disastrous statements from President Lula,” said Jungmann.

The lawmaker was referring to the AP interview in which he disqualified hunger strikes from Cuban political prisoners and compared them to ordinary criminals incarcerated in Brazilian jails.

“We have to respect the decisions of the Cuban legal system and the government to arrest people depending on the laws of Cuba, like I want them to respect Brazil. Hunger strikes can’t be a human rights excuse to free people. Imagine if all the jailed criminals in São Paulo went on a fast to demand they be set free,” he was quoted by AP.

The release of the interview coincided with a new petition from the Cuban dissidence addressed to Lula asking him to intercede before Raul Castro in favor of political prisoners, particularly Guillermo Fariñas who has been on a hunger strike for over two weeks.

However according to the Brazilian embassy in Havana the letter addressed to Lula by the “Committee Orlando Zapata Tamayo for the liberation of Cuban political prisoners” was not received because it was not signed.

In late February, Lula met in Cuba with Fidel and Raul Castro just hours after Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo died from a prolonged hunger strike. At the time, he told Brazil’s Agência Estado news agency that he “deeply regretted” Zapata’s death, but Lula refused to meet with opposition groups in Cuba

Lula later stated he had received no petition from the Cuban opposition and even more embarrassing he remained silent next to Cuban president Raul Castro when he described Zapata Tamayo as an “ordinary criminal” and blamed Washington for what was happening.

“The president expressed himself poorly or he was misunderstood,” said Mauricio Rands, a federal deputy from the Workers Party. “We don’t accept that somebody can be detained just because they have disagreements with the government. The President is well aware of the difference between a political prisoner and an ordinary prisoner.”

From Cuba political prisoner Fariñas was quoted by Brazil’s Folha de S. Paulo columnist Flavia Marreiro saying that “with that statement, President Lula shows his commitment to the tyranny of Castro and his contempt for the political prisoners and their families.” He added “a majority of the Cuban people feel betrayed by a president who was once a political prisoner.”

Lula led worker strikes against Brazil’s military regime and was imprisoned for 31 days in 1980 for his political activities. He was quoted saying that “I’ve been on hunger strikes and I would never do it again; I think it’s insane to mistreat your own body.”

The Brazilian president said he thought there was hypocrisy at play in the criticism of Cuba. “It’s not just in Cuba that people died from hunger strikes,” he said.

Brazilian Foreign Minister Celso Amorim came to the rescue of the president. “It’s one thing to defend democracy, human rights, the right to free speech,” said Amorim. “It’s another thing to be supporting everything that is dissident in the world. That is not (our) role.”

Celso Amorim said Brazilian trade and its development projects were helping Cubans and said it was in the hands of the US to bring the quickest changes to the nation. “If someone is interested in creating political evolution in Cuba, I have a quick prescription: End the embargo.”

Columnist Merval Pereira wrote in Wednesday’s edition of the Brazilian newspaper O Globo that “the comments of President Lula are worrying because they denote that he made a terrible confusion between democratic regimes and dictatorships, treating them equally.”

EU Parliament

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday strongly condemning the “avoidable and cruel” death of Cuban political prisoner Orlando Zapata and voicing its concern at the “alarming state” of another prisoner, Guillermo Fariñas.

MEPs also repeat their call to the Cuban government for the “immediate and unconditional” release of all political prisoners and urge the EU to begin a “structured dialogue” with Cuban civil society.

Parliament, which approved the resolution by 509 votes to 30 with 14 abstentions, strongly condemns the “avoidable and cruel” death of political dissident Orlando Zapata, after a hunger strike of 85 days, and expresses its solidarity and sympathy with his family.

MEPs also condemn the pre-emptive detention of activists and the government’s attempt to prevent the family of Orlando Zapata from holding his funeral and paying their last respects.

The resolution, which was tabled jointly by several political groups in Parliament – the EPP, Socialist, Liberal, Conservative and Reformist, Green and Europe of Freedom and Democracy – calls on the Cuban government for the “immediate and unconditional” release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience and deplores the absence of any “significant signs” of response by the Cuban authorities to the calls by the EU and the international community for all political prisoners to be released and for fundamental freedoms to be fully respected.

MEPs also urge the Council and Commission to step up action to demand the release of political prisoners and safeguard the work of human rights defenders.

The resolution calls on the EU High Representative, Catherin Ashton, and Commissioner responsible for cooperation, Kristalina Georgieva, “immediately to begin a structured dialogue with Cuban civil society and with those who support a peaceful transition in Cuba.” There are Community development cooperation mechanisms, such as the European Initiative for Democracy and Human Rights, that could help achieve this.

Parliament also urges the EU institutions to give their unconditional support and full encouragement to the launching of a peaceful process of political transition to multi-party democracy in Cuba.

In addition, Parliament voices concern at the situation of the political prisoners and dissidents who went on hunger strike following Zapata’s death and welcomes the fact that most of them are now taking food again. However, it draws attention to “the alarming state of the journalist and psychologist Guillermo Fariñas, whose continuation of the hunger strike could have fatal consequences.”

Lastly, the resolution expresses solidarity with the entire Cuban people and support for them in their progress towards democracy and respect and promotion of fundamental freedoms.



  • Show Comments (7)

  • Andrade

    [quote]Now go play with your Col. Qhaddafi toy[/quote]

    I´d like to order a dozen of these toys for my great grand children for Easter. Where can I get them?

  • Lloyd Cata

    [b]And it is my humble understanding that no matter what collor the dictatorship (right-wing or left-wing), they should be condemned and fought anywhere in the world.[/b]

    Dude, you totally missed the point. The embargo is nothing other than economic blackmail. It is the embargo which dictates how Cuba arranges its internal policies and trade with its neighbors. Why do you think Cuba was again accused of being a terrorist. Forget the evidence(if you have any), it is only because US says it is? There are many countries that want to do many projects in Cuba, but they cannot under US-US-US trade/patent law. These are the actions of imperialists, and the Cuban revolution is just that, a “revolution” against an “outside” entity, not an “internal civil war” such as Lula’s actions against the generals(even though perpetrated by the same US). The ‘shadow’ US government that controls completely the foreign policy is the biggest threat to world peace today and that is simply something more people understand around the world. The US propaganda bubble has burst as well as its various financial bubbles. The US buys and sells dictators of every stripe around the world, such as Saddam and now Qhaddafi. Fidel is respected around the world because he refuses the demands of the ‘pimp’ of dictators. Since he will not open Cuba like a street whore to be raped and thrown in the gutter like you did Haiti. Like their French friends did Haiti and charge them for their own right to be free. Ha-ha-ha…ha-ha-ha…Fidel has every ‘right’ to protect the people of Cuba from such a fate, and if it takes being called ‘dictator’ or ‘murderer'(of suicidal media-bombers) then “it is what it is”.

    [b]I see no catch-22 situation(as you mentioned in another thread)[/b]

    There you go! See, your completely confused. I was not involved in any catch-22 discussion, even though it was mentioned in a thread I joined. I don’t have those catch-22 situations because I don’t let BS get in the way of the truth, I just go find some more dots to connect. 8)

    Now go play with your Col. Qhaddafi toy because I can’t wait to see how that one blows up in your face. 😀

  • Andrade

    [quote]Lula is a coward because he and his compañeros fought against a right-wing military dictatorship in Brazil.[/quote]

    Dude, do you know where Brazil is located and the language spoken there?

  • Breckenfeld

    To Lloyd Cata – Simply Cowardice
    The uproar over the Cuban hunger strikers regarding the Brazilian government position is very simple to understand. Lula is a coward because he and his compañeros fought against a right-wing military dictatorship in Brazil. And it is my humble understanding that no matter what collor the dictatorship (right-wing or left-wing), they should be condemned and fought anywhere in the world. Many who fought against the dictatorship in Brazil lost their lives. At some point the military went out of scene and democratic rule returned to Brazil. Thus in a way, it made the ultimate sacrifice of some worth. And those who fight against tyranny should be praised everywhere. By not condemning the Cuban dictatorship (And this is not the MSM view or any kind of imperialistic propaganda) Lula makes light of the sacrifice of those who fight against dictatorship and is totally incorehent with his background. By urging Obama to end the blockade against Cuba he simply played the anachronic tune that the Cuban dictatorship has some reason to be….
    All of the dictatorships have gone in Latin America. I see no catch-22 situation(as you mentioned in another thread) if one government ( in the case Brazil)has to condemn Cuba in this regard. It is funny when they criticize the US they simply do it without any restraint. CUBA is a dictatorship, and it is an example to no one. The silly talk that it has faced up to the Yankee imperialist is simply b***t because it does not make Cuba any less than what it is really is… a dictatorship. Cuba should always be condemned when it is necessary, just like any other country that makes mistakes in this regard. There is simply no reason Cuba should be treated otherwise.

  • Lloyd Cata

    My friend, Americans have been coming to Brazil in waves since the Civil War, both Black and White to escape American Law. All the Black people in Brazil did not originate from Africa as many were escaped US slaves and many after they were freed. Also, many White confederates followed in order to maintain their practice of slavery. Brazil certainly has nothing to be ashamed of in the immigration question. Indeed, during the US farm crisis of the 1980’s there was a migration of US farmers to Brazil where wages were low and land was cheap.

    On this topic of dissidents starving themselves to death to protest Cuban human rights violations; there are dimensions to these events that are completely and deliberately ignored by the MSM. Throughout history there have been these people willing to sacrifice themselves to protest as martyrs to their particular cause. Some do this in a more violent manner, such as the recent jihadist suicide bombers, others prefer the non-violent manner of martyrdom with intentional self-destruction, in the manner of Ghandi or Martin Luther King. Both, however have the same goal; to psychologically impact and influence masses of people to respond to their actions. The fact is that those who practice this philosophy and act in a non-violent manner are considerably more compelling than the suicide-bomber who kills indiscriminately and without regard to any human suffering. “Give me liberty or give me death” is an ideal that existed in the human heart long before the words were uttered by the American patriot, Patrick Henry.

    What is missing in this discussion is the role of the media in using the non-violent dissent to inflame the psyche of the people. While thousands of innocents die violently and unnecessarily in the wars to promote ‘democracy’, the media sharply focuses on the few who voluntarily sacrifice themselves in the quest for freedom. For those who cannot discern the difference, the media is only too happy to condemn and excuse one, while promoting and glorifying the other. Escape from Cuba has been a dangerous and deadly affair throughout the revolution. That some Cubans would purposely kill themselves as a form of escape is simply a tactic, promoted by the fake outrage expressed in the media, to influence world opinion against the Cuban revolution. Whether it is successful or not, past experience does verify that this tactic can be successful when it is allowed and promoted as acts of martyrdom.

    Perhaps it is time for another Mariel. The gangsters in Miami will be heartened by new recruits, considering many who identify with the Cuban opposition are criminals under Cuban law. What the US found during Mariel was that they would continue to be criminals under US law. What the media doesn’t say is that the US was as responsible as Cuba for reinstating the immigration embargo. People have left their homelands for many reasons throughout history; that is the American story. If the US was not so hypocritical in its outrage over the suicide of Cuban radicals, perhaps humanity would be willing to swallow its continued support for an Israeli state that continuously kills, oppresses, and denies freedom to Palestinians. Condemnation and outrage are legitimate in the face of unnecessary death, but magnitude and manipulation are the tactics of a media less concerned with people than providing ammunition to all manner of suicide bombers.

  • Breckenfeld

    Brazil does not violate any US immigration law. Such a statement probably comes from someone who is as ignorant as any other average American. So it is no wonder George War Bush was elected twice. (lolrof)

    Some Brazilians naively beliving the US is still the land of opportunity embark on that adventure to enter the US via Mexico. The Brazilian Government has nothing to do with that.

    However, it is the US which has violated many international(even internal) laws in the guise of fighting terror. As a result many innocent lives were wasted because of the bare-faced lies of an imbecile president that should be tried in an international court of law for crimes against mankind. George War Bush is as much of a terrorist as those who perpetrated those vicious acts on 09/11.

    Go find something useful to do…..

    Some laundering !!!!!

  • eagles talons

    brazil is a high violater of u.s. immigration laws…
    and of course there is the problem of brazil.s nationals illegally entering the u.s.a. through international smuggling routes via mexico and canada,and the caribean…the majority of americans are fed up with this international crime perpetrated by high offender nations like mexico and brazil and russia sending their criminals to the u.s.,much like cuba does …americans would like these nations to be sanctioned ,punished ,and prosecuted, for their unwillingness to dismantle these traffickers,forgers,counterfeiters,smugglers and corrupt visa issuers…

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