The Wall Street Journal

August 6, 2002

FROM THE ARCHIVES: August 6, 2002

Cuba Travel Advisory

Just before it went on vacation, the House of Representatives voted to lift the ban on American travel to Cuba; this may soon be followed by the Senate. Lawmakers still have to overcome a promised Presidential veto but that possibility is growing. If it does happen, we hope Americans who visit Cuba will pause to think about Juan Carlos Gonzalez Leiva, a 37-year-old blind lawyer now in Fidel Castro's slammer for his peaceful human rights work.

Mr. Gonzalez is a devout Christian who heads up Cuba's Independent Fraternity for the Blind and the Cuban Foundation for Human Rights. He has long been the target of government, and by extension paramilitary, animosity -- as are most dissenters in Fidel's police state. The Coalition of Cuban-American Women says that he has been kidnapped and abandoned in remote areas more than once.

In March Mr. Gonzalez took up a peaceful protest with nine other human rights activists to call attention to the beating of an independent journalist. For this he was beaten with a gun butt and arrested. His wife says that he and seven of the other protesters are being held in prisons far from their homes and are being physically and psychologically tortured.

Mr. Gonzalez has been stripped of his cane and his Braille Bible. His wife also says that he spent three days in one of the tiny cells that Cuban prisoners call "the drawer." This horrible form of torture is well-documented in Armando Valladares's "Against All Hope." She says he has been told that if he cooperates, his conditions will improve.

We support lifting the U.S. travel ban, as a way to expose Cubans to the rest of the world. But lifting the ban shouldn't mean lifting the pressure on the Castro regime to let Mr. Gonzalez and his hundreds of cellmates go free.

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