News and Facts about Cuba

A warning to America from a Cuban dissident

A warning to America from a Cuban
By Editorial Board December 18 at 6:47 PM

WHEN Obama began the opening to Cuba a year ago, one of the
arguments the White House advanced was that a full-fledged embassy in
Havana would give U.S. diplomats more to roam the island than
was the case with the constricted “interests section” that existed
earlier. The administration emphasized that expanded “people-to-people”
contacts, including with Cuban dissidents and activists,
would be an important outcome of the thaw.

Antonio G. Rodiles, one of many Cubans who have suffered harassment,
arrest and beatings for speaking out, heard those promises, but, in an
interview at The Post this week, he expressed deep disappointment that
it has not happened. Rather than more contact, he said, he has seen U.S.
diplomats less than before and suggested the reason: The United States
has made Raúl Castro and the Cuban regime its chief interlocutor.
Concern about human rights, long a mainstay of U.S. policy toward Cuba,
has been “sidelined,” he lamented. Cuba’s fractious opposition feels
left out in the cold.

In the same week that Mr. Rodiles described this situation, Mr. Obama
suggested in an interview with Yahoo News that he would go to Cuba
before he leaves office only if he could “talk to everybody.” He added,
“I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President Castro
that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the
scope for, you know, free inside of Cuba.” That’s a nice
gesture, but it does not change the reality for most Cubans who live
under Castro’s dictatorship.

Mr. Obama has counseled that change in Cuba will take time, and
“normalization will be a long journey.” Certainly, both Raúl and Fidel
Castro, who have ruled the island for a half-century, are in their
twilight years. But Mr. Rodiles made the sobering argument that the
Castro brothers are girding themselves against embarking upon Mr. 
Obama’s journey. They are preparing to perpetuate the regime by passing
the baton of power to Raúl Castro’s son and son-in-law; they show no
sign that their henchmen will stop using and coercion to
repress free speech; and they keep a tight grip on the and
society as a whole.

As it has before, Mr. Rodiles pointed out, the regime is also trying to
play games with , allowing a surge in order to put pressure on
the United States. Mr. Rodiles said that the White House fails to
understand the complexity of a power structure determined to exploit the
gains from Mr. Obama’s opening for its own survival rather than
acquiesce to changes that would loosen its grip.

Barriers are falling — the latest being a bilateral agreement announced
Thursday for scheduled air service between the United States and Cuba —
but these incremental steps should not be mistaken for the arrival of
freedom in Cuba. The Castros will not give an inch if they can avoid it.
The real challenge for Mr. Obama is to cause change, and not just enrich
and empower those who would stymie it.

Source: A warning to America from a Cuban dissident – The Washington
Post –

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