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By Wall Street Journal
For a fleeting moment last week a report on Belgian radio gave hope to those who want to see the spread of democracy everywhere. It started out: "A delegation from Belgium is on its way to Cuba to investigate the prison conditions. . ."
From this promising lead-in, listeners might have thought that someone in Europe was finally paying attention to the plight of the hundreds of political prisoners languishing in Cuba's gulags. Alas, no. The delegation it turns out is on its way to investigate the living conditions ". . . of the al Qaeda prisoners in Guantanamo Bay." That again.
It's hard to find a more appropriate representation of the zeitgeist of Europe at the moment. The bien pensants -- and the simply anti-American -- have raised a storm about the prison conditions of a group of men who fought for an organization that dedicates itself to killing innocents. At the same time, they ignore, or deny, the existence of the men and women behind bars in Cuba not for acts of violence, but for the crime of speaking their minds about the foulness of the Castro regime.
Would it be because the al Qaeda gang is subject to untold mistreatments, while the Cuban political prisoners enjoy some Caribbean version of summer camp? Hardly.
According to the testimonials from the Cuban prisoners themselves, they are subjected to physical and mental torture routinely, and often must endure steamy stand-up cells with only ravenous rats for companions. Visits by relatives are not allowed, while the medication sent to the prisoners is often confiscated. The al Qaeda prisoners, on the other hand, get three square meals, a Quran, time to pray five times a day and exercise. The food rations, freedom of religion and attention to leisure would be envied by Cubans -- in and out of prison.
The al Qaeda prisoners have also benefited from visits by representatives of the International Red Cross. Since 1989 this organization has demanded that Castro open his jails to its monitors, but to no avail -- he thumbs his nose. Why shouldn't he? He's been Cuba's dictator for the past 44 years and he's the toast of the European left, in government and opposition. The Europeans are telling him he's doing nothing wrong.
We could write at length here about heart-wrenching individual cases of Cubans who have suffered untold indignities for doing what men and women everywhere should have a right to do. But anyone interested can simply go to the Web sites of Amnesty International, Americas Watch, the Center for a Free Cuba or the U.N. Commission on Human Rights.
The point of this exercise is simply to expose the rank hypocrisy of those who've just discovered there are prisons in Cuba.