OPEN LETTER TO THE PRESIDENT OF EAST TIMOR, JOSÉ RAMOS HORTA
Upon his visit to Cuba, December 2010.
By Eva Belfrage.
When the war for independence of East Timor was raging against the occupying forces of Indonesia, a war of David against Goliat, you were an important voice for your people, who were so isolated from the outside world. You had a hard time in the UN to get support for the struggle against Indonesia and some understanding for the aspirations for freedom and independence. There was little sympathy in the UN for the struggle in East Timor, which most governments felt was a lost cause. Among your really good friends were the former Portuguese colonies and a wide spread net of international solidarity groups. But the hardest enemies, impossible to communicate with, were the Sovjet Union and Cuba, who could not accept that the Fretilin freedom movement wanted to stand on its own feet and be free from any political block during these cold war times.
One of the stories I heard those days, when I worked in the Swedish East Timor Committee, was when Abilio Araujo, one of Fretilin’ s exiled leaders, went to Cuba to have a dialogue with the Castro government.. He was received rather well with confortable accomodation etc, but he was left without any particular programme, waiting in vain to be received by the government. When he after quite some useless time was offered a special check up and treatment in one of Cuba’ s specialist hospitals, without suffering from any ailment, he felt indeed offended, which was the intention, and he left the island. This is the story as I remember it, correct me if there are modifications to this story.
These were nevertheless the relations East Timor had with Cuba, in those difficult days during the war of independence, when they really needed to be listened to and respected.
It was a miracle and against all odds that East Timor finally reached its freedom and could establish a free and independent state. We were many who enjoyed that beautiful day when this young nation was created.
José, when you visited us in Sweden you always said that you were a social democrat deep in your heart, but you were frustrated with the fact that Olof Palme sold arms to Indonesia. By these always repeated declarations of yours we understood that you were a firm anticommunist and against all anti-democratic and dictatorial governments. We knew that you had to fight for your believes among some of your comrades and we felt proud of you for your courage to defend your position and your struggle for a future free and democratic East Timor, which luckily came true.
That’ s why it is so shameful and sad to see you now cooperating with and even officially visiting one of the least democratic and most opressive governments in our times. From the hands of this government you receive assistance in the form of medical doctors and teachers, thus humiliating your government and people, who stand up for principles contrary to dictatorial opression. Your country may be in desperate needs for such help, but it could have been solved in other ways.
The medical doctors and teachers you receive from Cuba, are in their missions not restricted to their professions, they are messengers and infiltrators of the communist Castro government and well trained for such tasks. Look at the effects in Venezuela of the Cuban assistance and what influence Cuba has on all security and military affairs of that country.
I assume that you are aware of these things and perhaps also keep an eye on these matters, but it is anyway and inevitably very bad taste and bad politics to cooperate with this communist government, who has turned its “aid business” into its most prospering export and most useful propaganda machine, whilst it completely neglects the suffering of its own people, who are deprived of most basic medecines and is seeing an ever decreasing health service, and an impoverished and indoctrinating education with acute lack of professional teachers. In addition the Cuban government treats its medical doctors and teachers on missions abroad as cheap labour slaves who must obey their mission leaders in everything as if they were a hoard of children.
José, the East Timor government has made a big mistake in entering this political relationsship with Cuba, however much you may need assistance. I hope you don’t smile too much when you meet the representative of this tyranny, Raúl Castro, and thank him for his assistance to your country.
If the visit of yours instead had the purpose to propose to Raúl Castro, that your government with its experiences of starting the construction of a democratic nation from the ground, could assist Cuba and its people in establishing the basic foundations for freedom and democracy, then I would permit you to smile, right in the face of Raúl Castro.
P.S I just found the information that you have pleaded through the UN and to Obama for the liberation of the five Cuban spies. This is the prize you had to pay for receiving Cuban assistance. Cuban aid is evidently not for free - it has its political prize and that is this humiliating act you had to carry out, while you must be very well aware of the fact that these five Cubans have received their sentences by an independant judicial system and with all rights to a proper defense, something which Cubans or foreigners in Cuban jails, have not experienced in 52 years. In Cuba there are hundreds of political prisoners, condemned to death threatening conditions in the Cuban gulag and you don' t care. An american languises in Cuban prisons since one year without any trial and he has lost many kilos, like all prisoners in Cuba do. I feel ashamed that I once believed in you. Has power changed you so much?
Stockholm 4 December 2010
(Director of the Swedish East Timor Committee during the 80ies – now editor and writer for