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A brave act in Cuba deserves American support

A brave act in Cuba deserves American support
By Editorial Board February 24 at 7:13 PM

BRINGING and democracy to totalitarian Cuba will be no easy
task. Two indispensable ingredients, though, must be courage on the part
of the country’s dissidents and democrats, and international solidarity
with them.

Both were on display in Havana over the past week. At the center of
events was Rosa María Payá Acevedo, daughter of the late Oswaldo Payá, a
recipient of the European Parliament’s Sakharov Prize for freedom of
thought who lost his life in a still-unexplained 2012 car crash. Ms.
Payá decided to pay tribute to her father by awarding a
prize in his name and chose as the first recipient Luis Almagro, the
Uruguayan secretary general of the Organization of American States, who
has distinguished himself through forthright condemnation of repression
in Cuba’s authoritarian ally . Ms. Payá invited former Mexican
Felipe Calderón, former Chilean minister Mariana
Aylwin (daughter of a former president) and Martin Palous, a former
Czech ambassador to the United States, to attend.

Raúl Castro’s regime blocked them all from entering the country, telling
Mr. Almagro that Ms. Payá’s entirely peaceful program was “anti-Cuban
activity” and a “provocation.” Officials also detained journalists
attempting to cover the planned ceremony, including Henry Constantin
Ferreiro, regional vice chairman of the Inter American Press
Association’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information. No
doubt Ms. Payá’s unauthorized attempt to honor an international diplomat
before such distinguished company did present the regime with an awkward
choice: to tolerate an elementary exercise of her rights, and the rights
of her invitees, or to deny it, and incur international political
damage. How revealing of Havana’s true nature, and true priorities, that
it chose the latter. Indeed, Cuba’s foreign ministry said the crackdown
showed its determination not to “sacrifice its fundamental principles to
maintain appearances.”

And how revealing of the limits of U.S. “engagement” with Cuba. While
these European and Latin American leaders were supporting Ms. Payá’s
assertion of freedom, a bipartisan delegation of six members of
Congress, headed by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), were on a visit to Cuba,
promoting business ties. After a visit with Mr. Castro, Mr. Leahy
blandly observed that the “wants reform to continue, he wants
the movement forwards to continue” despite President Trump’s uncertain
attitude toward the island’s government. Mr. Leahy’s spokesman told us
that the delegation’s schedule was too “packed” with appointments such
as the Castro meeting to allow for any contact with Ms. Payá, and
declined to comment, pro or con, on the regime’s refusal to admit Mr.
Almagro and company.

To be sure, Mr. Trump is hardly the ideal spokesman for democracy
promotion, in Cuba or anywhere else. All the more reason that members of
Congress supply on America’s behalf the solidarity Cuba’s democrats
need, and all the more reason to be disappointed that Mr. Leahy and his
colleagues did not provide more of it.

Source: A brave act in Cuba deserves American support – The Washington
Post –
www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/a-brave-act-in-cuba-deserves-american-support/2017/02/24/576ca00a-f86f-11e6-be05-1a3817ac21a5_story.html?utm_term=.8f90fc518797

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