As a Cuban-born individual, a lot of my family still lives in my birthplace of Havana, Cuba. We still stay in touch and it is always great to hear their voices over the phone, amid the eavesdropping by the Cuban government. We talk in code so the Cuban authorities don’t know what we’re saying, but it is a gamble.

Well, what was once a gamble has now become a life-or-death situation for some in my island birthplace as of this past week. In an attempt to silence the voices of dissent, Fidel Castro has ordered the arrest of at least 75 individuals for merely speaking their minds. And the timing is no coincidence.

While the attention of the world is focused on the ongoing Iraqi crisis, Castro has decided to purge his island fiefdom of anything that may resemble an act of freedom. The world’s back is turned so it is time to round up anybody who dares to question his authority.

Castro has been in power now for over 40 years. And it isn’t because of support by his Cuban countrymen, either. Fidel Castro is in power for the same reason dictators like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, Jean-Claude Duvalier, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein stayed in power for as long as they did: They inflict fear onto the lives of the innocent on a daily basis.

And like his fellow dictators he’s very crafty, at times even ingenious. He plays the public relations game well, too. The funny thing about Castro is that he has more supporters in the U.S. than he does on his island. This is mainly in the form of Hollywood celebrities such as Oliver Stone, Jack Nicholson, Steven Spielberg, Michael Moore, Jane Fonda and the rest of the self-righteous pseudo-socialist clique that so permeates the entertainment industry. If they were “real” socialists, then I might respect their view. But they’re far from it with their wealth and lust for the high life. Better living than the average actual Cuban living in the “socialist paradise” that Castro provides.

It is these Hollywood fools, as well as those like them, who keep Castro in power by supporting his economy with their visits to Cuba, thus granting him the ability to persecute those seeking freedom.

These are the same folks who want to coddle him in order to get him to “change his ways” and at the same time don’t want him to abandon his order of rule.

And so now we’re witnessing yet another purge of freedom in my birthplace. While it is nothing new, it sends the message that Castro will never let his countrymen see the light of liberty, even though it shines 90 miles to the north of their coast. Many Cubans will never get to exercise simple freedoms such as reading or publishing controversial literature, expressing an opposing point of view, traveling to foreign countries, voting for a candidate other than their oppressive ruler or simply enjoying a day without government harassment at the hands of a dictator.

Dictators don’t usually last too long, and if they do it is because of the total control over their populations that they posses. Despots and dictators also usually fall by force; they don’t kindly step down. Ask Hitler, Amin, Duvalier, Pol Pot or Hussein.

Of the seven dictators mentioned earlier only one remained in power to his death. That was Stalin. The other still in power is Castro. Hopefully, the Cuban people rise up and say that enough is enough. It would be nice to, some day, enjoy seeing my place of birth, but never under the rule of Fidel Castro, as it would be an insult to the freedoms this country has granted me. My only wish is that, like their Iraqi brethren, the Cuban people get to see their rule of oppression quashed in a heavy-handed way.

Forceful overthrow is the only language egomaniacal dictators understand, and Fidel Castro falls under that title. Maybe it won’t be long until an overthrow occurs. And, like the Iraqis recently did, the Cubans will dance on the streets and smash every icon representing the rule of Castro into oblivion.

But for the time being, let us not forget the 75 or so individuals sitting in Cuban jail cells facing sentences that range from 6 to 28 years in prison. All this for merely thinking of democracy and freedom. In some places that’s all it takes.

Henry Sarria is a longtime Isla Vista resident.