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Anti-Castro Forces Mount Petition Drive


Oswaldo Paya says that when he was 17, he mentioned to his fellow students that he didn’t much care for the government of Fidel Castro. It was 1969, the height of Stalinist repression in Cuba. Paya’s comments got him sentenced to three years in a labor camp, where he hacked sugar cane and quarried marble 10 hours a day.

“It was a struggle between power and spirit,” said Paya, now 50. “I left with a stronger faith that things can change.”

That was the first round in a battle that Paya has been waging against Castro for more than three decades. Today, Paya is leading an unprecedented attempt to bring more freedom to Cuba, using the unlikeliest of tools: the Cuban constitution, written by Castro himself.

“It’s a myth that this regime is eternal and invincible; the people can displace it,” said Paya, who circulated a petition seeking a national referendum to guarantee freedom of expression and association, amnesty for political prisoners, free elections and the right to private enterprise. He says it has been signed by more than 10,000 people.

Paya, with help from members of more than 140 dissident groups, spent more than a year collecting and verifying the signatures, which he said would be presented in “weeks, not months” to the legislature. By law, the National Assembly must consider and vote on any measure brought to it by at least 10,000 registered voters.

Ex-Sotheby’s President Gets Probation, Fine for Price-Fixing


A federal judge on Monday sentenced Diana D. Brooks, the former president of Sotheby’s, to three years’ probation for her role in a scheme setting identical commissions with auction rival Christie’s.

Brooks’ probation includes six months of home confinement. She also was ordered to pay a fine of $350,000 and serve 1,000 hours of community service.

The collusion stifled competition between the world’s two biggest auction houses, violated antitrust laws and cost customers seeking to sell goods worth millions of dollars.

“Your circumstances evoke little compassion,” U.S. District Judge George B. Daniels told Brooks. “You substituted shame for fame. Your words are the all-too-familiar refrain of the white-collar criminal ... the extent of the damage you caused cannot be undone.”

Brooks, whose position made her one of the most powerful people in the art world until her resignation from Sotheby’s in 2000, told the court before sentencing that she was sorry.

“I would like to apologize to all the people I have hurt,” she said in a shaky voice. “I accept responsibility for what I’ve done. ... I will forever bear the burden of what I have done.”