What Castro and Ceausescu have in common: A Dictator's Fear ot the Knowledge of Freedom





by Martin Lessenthin

Two Dictators: Fidel Castro and Nicolae Ceausescu 




Under the rule of former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, who terrorized and permanently silenced so many people, the Romanian population was systematically and deliberately deceived. When freezing temperatures and the notorious lack of power for heating constituted a political problem for the leader of the Romanian economy, the state-owned media routinely chose to disseminate incorrect information about winter temperatures. At the same time, Romanians did not have access to information from abroad. One could be prosecuted for the possession of foreign newspaper, and for the distribution of own publications, however simple their contents. Under Ceausescu, the possession of a typewriter was a punishable offence and only lawyers were allowed to own one. However, in order to be allowed to obtain a typewriter, lawyers had to apply for a special "licence"!

A Romanian lawyer who sought asylum in Germany, brought with him and showed to ISHR human rights activists one of these certificates which allowed him to own a typewriter. That was twenty years ago – today one would laugh about it, if it were not so serious and sad. Today we know what happened to Ceausescu’s regime and the dictator himself. And we still can feel how difficult and cumbersome it is to appraise the past and to heal the wounds left by such erroneous policies.

Similarly, Fidel Castro in Cuba is afraid that the population might find out too much about life in freedom. The Maximo Lider cannot stand the fact that journalists like Guillermo Farinas Hernandez have unlimited access to the internet. To prevent the Cuban population from receiving and disseminating independent information, the dictator is prepared to let the hunger-striking journalist die. Even state employees who have official internet access and whose job it is to find out about web site structures are prohibited from browsing on western web sites. If the employee fails to comply, he instantly loses his job.

Internet access in Cuba today is equivalent to possessing a typewriter in Romania twenty years ago. Castro’s secret service and police monitor anyone with a computer as well as all phone connection on the island.

Politicians should bare this in mind when they discuss the situation in Cuba; so do holidaymakers who are fooled by Castro’s propaganda machine into believing the dream of a Caribbean paradise.

Martin Lessenthin
International Society for Human Rights Germany
Spokesman of the Board

ISHR – IGFM, 01.06.2006