The Castros Are Dr. King's Disciples? the Congressional Black Caucus Flies Blind in Visit

Article excerpt

Byline: Nat Hentoff, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

During the Congressional Black Caucus' guided tour of Cuba, after caucus members' meeting with Fidel Castro, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois joyously said: This is the beginning of a new day! In my household [Fidel] is known as the ultimate survivor.

Fidel himself, in a letter in the state-run Granma newspaper, saluted this legislative group. The aura of Martin Luther King is accompanying them.

To others of us who honor King, there is a barely surviving black Cuban disciple of King (and Mohandas Gandhi) whom the caucus visitors did not meet because he has been in a Castro brothers' cage for many years and was off-limits to them. He is Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, and he is among those designated by Amnesty International as prisoners of conscience in Cuban gulags.

Another visiting caucus member, Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, was reported by the April 11 New York Post to have said, We've been led to believe that the Cuban people are not free, and they are repressed by a vicious dictator, and I saw nothing to match what we've been told. A government tour can lead you to believe anything.

The same article quoted Mr. Cleaver as saying of Cuba's current president, Raul Castro: He's one of the most amazing human beings I've ever met. The international human rights organizations - which have pleaded repeatedly with the Castro brothers to release the blind physician - also find Dr. Biscet amazing in a vitally different sense.

Before he was arrested during Fidel Castro's 2003 mass crackdown on dissenters (an event infamously known as Black Spring ) and sentenced to 25 years in prison, Dr. Biscet had been put away on occasion for planning to organize small groups in private homes to work nonviolently for democratic rights.

Since 2003, Dr. Biscet, often brutalized and denied medical care for digestive and other ailments, has occasionally been thrown into an unlit 3-foot-wide underground punishment cell with a toilet in the floor. His highest crime of caged disobedience against the state was to protest vicious treatment of fellow prisoners from his cell. Yet, in a message slipped out, he maintains: My conscience and spirit are well.

In a cruel irony, the caucus visitors laying flowers at the King memorial appear utterly unaware of this inspiration to many silenced Cubans in Castroland, though Dr. Biscet has been internationally covered by reporters, including myself. Nor were these visiting admirers of Fidel and Raul Castro seemingly aware that a biography of King - seized during the 2003 crackdown raids on independent libraries - was, among other subversive books, ordered burned by Castro judges in one-day trials.

Another Cuban follower of King is Iris Garcia, founder of the Rosa Parks Women's Civil Rights Movement. She and her husband, Afro-Cuban dissenter Jose Luis Garcia Perez, are on a hunger strike trying to bring justice to a family member in a Castro cage. …