U2's Bono urged support for Cuban dissident Biscet

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Cuban dissident Oscar Elias Biscet says the praise from Bono at a Miami South Florida concert was for the Cuban people overall.

By Juan O. Tamayo, The Miami Herald

Cuba's leading dissident, Oscar Elias Biscet, said he "was shaking with happiness" as he learned Thursday that rock star and social activist Bono had sung his praises during a jam-packed U2 concert in Miami.

The 73,000-strong audience at the Sun Life stadium roared with delight Wednesday when Bono urged support for the 49-year-old Biscet and declared that "some day soon Cuba will be free."

"As you read me what he said, I was shaking with happiness because it showed it's good when one is chosen as a symbol of his people," Biscet told El Nuevo Herald, which first told him of Bono's comments.

"He's praising not me but all my people, all Cubans," he added in a telephone interview from his home in Havana. "And I agree that Cuba will be free, if people like Bono join the cause" of human rights on the island.

Biscet, a physician awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President George W. Bush in 2008, was released from prison in March after serving eight years of a 25-year sentence for "acts against the sovereignty and independence" of Cuba.

Bono praised Biscet during a segment of the U2 concert where the Irish band pays homage to human rights and people walk around the stage carrying paper lanterns with the symbol of the London-based Amnesty International.

"We'd like to do something we've never done before," Bono announced as he asked the audience to hold up their hands during the song Walk On. "A beautiful man, a doctor who spent time in the prisons of Cuba. He was released. His name is Doctor Biscet.

"I want you to hold him up and let everyone in Cuba know he is special to us and we are watching, we are watching. Hold him in your thoughts. Hold him in your prayers," Bono declared.

"It was a very moving moment," said Republican Party consultant Ana Navarro, who was at the concert. "Obviously, a lot of the people in the audience were Cuban American and were Hispanic, and felt good about the expression of solidarity."

Bono had met last week in Washington with Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and Sen. Marco Rubio, both Florida Republicans who urged the multi-cause activist to take note of Cuba's long history of human rights abuses.

Diaz-Balart wrote in an email to Navarro that he had specifically spoken with Bono about Biscet and Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the political prisoner who died in 2010 following a lengthy hunger strike.

Diaz-Balart and his brother, former Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart, also had met with Bono last year just before a concert in Miami, part of the band's "U2 360 Tour,'' which was cancelled when the lead singer underwent emergency back surgery.

During Wednesday's concert, a video showing images of political violence, including the so-called Arab Spring uprisings against Middle East dictators, was projected over the stage as the band played the song Sunday bloody Sunday.

Another video of Myanmar dissident Aung San Suu Kyi, only recently freed by her Asian country's military rulers after years of house arrest, was shown during the song Walk On.
Bono sparked a loud roar and applause from the audience when he mentioned Biscet, even though there was no image or video of the Havana doctor, according to concert goers.

"That was really powerful," said Alvaro Hernandez, a Miami Dade College student who left Cuba eight years ago. "That guy is famous around the world, and his mention of Cuba is like shinning a big light on the Castro dictatorship.''

Biscet is one of the more than 125 political prisoners freed over the past year as part of the Cuban Catholic Church's unprecedented mediation with the communist government of Raúl Castro. Almost all went directly from prison to exile in Spain, but Biscet and 11 others insisted on staying in Cuba -- and were the last to be released.

Now chairman of the Lawton Foundation for human rights, Biscet became a dissident in the mid-1990s, when he alleged that many infants were being killed after being delivered alive during abortions. Cuba has Latin America's highest abortion rate.

Police detained Biscet 27 times for brief periods between February of 1998 and November of 1999, when he was sentenced to three years in prison for organizing a peaceful march just before a Havana summit from leaders of Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations.

He was freed in late 2002 but was arrested again 37 days later and was tried during the massive crackdown in 2003, known as Cuba's Black Spring, when 75 dissidents were sentenced to lengthy prison terms after trials that seldom lasted more than a few hours.

Copyright © 2011 Miami Herald Media Co. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on July 1, 2011 4:46 AM.

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