[guest post by Dana]
I long for justice. Instead of seeing Raúl Castro shaking President Obama’s hand, I would like to see him, his brother, and all their henchmen in a court room, being tried for crimes against humanity. I also long for genuine freedom in Cuba. Instead of seeing his corrupt and abusive regime rewarded with favors from the United States, I long for the day when that regime is replaced by a genuine democracy with a free market economy.
Cubans have no freedom of speech or assembly. The press is tightly controlled, and there is no freedom to establish political parties or labor unions. Travel is strictly controlled, as is access to the Internet. There is no economic freedom and no elections. According to the Associated Press, at least 8,410 dissidents were detained in 2014.
These are the principles that Raúl Castro is unwilling to renounce, which have driven nearly 20 percent of Cuba’s population into exile.
Unfortunately, these are also the very principles that President Obama ratified as acceptable, which will govern Cuba for years to come.
We have begun to move down that path without any illusions about how difficult it may be. But we are each confident in our intentions, confident in the contacts that we have made, and pleased with the friendships that we have begun to forge.
And we are certain that the time is now to reach out to one another, as two peoples who are no longer enemies or rivals, but neighbors – time to unfurl our flags, raise them up, and let the world know that we wish each other well.
Unfortunately, for Cuban political dissidents and human rights activists, the message rang hollow as they were not invited to attend the ceremony, in spite of Sec. Kerry having acknowledged that it has been the activists and dissidents “at the heart of US foreign policy for decades.” Kerry rationalized the snub during an interview with Telemundo TV:
“That is a government-to-government moment, with very limited space…”
are several rows of empty chairs is the “very limited seating”:
…by the way, which is why we’re having the reception later in the day at which we can have a cross-section of civil society including some dissidents,” Kerry told Telemundo.
On the surface, it certainly appeared to be a magnanimous gesture to invite human rights activists and political dissidents to a private, no-journalists-allowed soiree, except that it’s John Kerry were talking about, and it was John Kerry who forgot to mention why he later decided to meet face-to-face with the dissidents:
The secretary of state is coming under growing pressure to meet with Cuban political dissidents and human rights activists during his historic visit to the communist-led island, during which he will raise the American flag over the newly reopened U.S. Embassy. The critics’ push comes after Cuban authorities arrested dozens of dissidents, some of them reported to be wearing paper masks of President Barack Obama, during a march in Havana over the weekend.
It was unclear exactly how many Cubans were arrested and for how long on Sunday — some reports said around 90 while others said it was more than 100.
Further, there was this pesky little problem as well:
Cuban government officials are understood to have signalled they would not attend the ceremony if vocal critics of the government were in attendance.
In response to the opening of the embassy, Sen. Marco Rubio slammed the president:
“It is a diplomatic and moral failure on this Administration’s part to have moved forward with opening an embassy in Havana and providing the regime with a windfall of U.S. dollars without achieving any of our national interests in return.”
For his part, that old fox, Fidel Castro, quickly got into the spirit of this new-found neighbor thing. On the day before the flag-raising ceremony, he rolled out his Howdy, Neighbor! welcome wagon:
“Cuba is owed compensation equivalent to damages, which total many millions of dollars, as our country has stated with irrefutable arguments and data in all of its speeches at the United Nations,” Castro told local media on his 89th birthday Thursday, according to AFP.