President Obama Welcomes Castro’s Criticisms Of The U.S.
[guest post by Dana]
President Obama today in Cuba:
“President Castro also addressed what he views as shortcomings in the United States around basic needs for people and poverty and inequality and race relations, and we welcome that constructive dialogue as well because we believe that when we share our deepest beliefs and ideas with an attitude of mutual respect that we can both learn and make the lives of our people better.”
Before President Obama arrived, more than 200 dissidents were arrested across the island. This included the head of the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National ReconciliationElizardo Sanchez, as well as Berta Soler, founder of the well known Ladies in White activist group. This also right before Raul Castro claimed that Cuba holds no political prisoners:
When asked why Cuba has political prisoners, Castro testily addressed Acosta directly, saying “Give me the list now of political prisoners to release … if there are political prisoners they’ll be free before nightfall.”
Shortly after, the Cuban American National Foundation, one of the most influential Cuban exile lobby groups in the world, released a list of 47 political prisoners. The group, CANF, said in a statement that accompanied the list: “As requested today by Cuban President, Raul Castro, the Cuban American National Foundation provides a list of 47 verified political prisoners. It is our expectation that these political prisoners will be released, unconditionally, by this evening.”
Dissidents were hoping President Obama would be the voice of advocacy and support for those being oppressed and silenced by the regime:
Guillermo Farinas, a leading voice in Cuba’s civil rights movement who is part of the group that could meet Obama, is camped out at a friend’s house this week because he said Cuban authorities have ordered him to be on house arrest. He said many other dissidents like him are being blockaded in their homes ahead of Obama’s visit. Because of that, he said Obama has a “moral responsibility” to strongly criticize Cuba’s human rights record and push the government to improve before the U.S. further expands its relationship with Cuba.
As Marco Rubio pointed out when summing up the president’s trip:
On Sunday, President Obama will touch down in Cuba for what promises to be one of the most disgraceful trips ever taken by a U.S. president anywhere in the world.
He’s right. Read Rubio’s great take-down of the president’s trip here.
The White House keeps saying that this trip will chart a new course for people-to-people relations, but all that Obama’s appeasement of the Castro dictatorship has done so far is create a channel for inside deals between large corporations and the Cuban military, which holds all the keys to the island’s economy. The effect will not be liberalization but rather the institutionalization of the Communist dictatorship as the profits from this détente will line the pockets not only of Fidel and Raul Castro, but also of Raul’s son, Alejandro Castro Espin.
Oh, and this group photo is making the rounds on the internet. Some people countered criticism of the photo and President Obama by pointing to an old photo of President Reagan making a *speech beneath a statue of Lenin when he was in the Soviet Union. Big difference though, Reagan and Lenin did not share the same political philosophies. Can we say that with equal assurance about President Obama and the Castro brothers?
*It’s typical that the left would point to the photo of Reagan giving a speech beneath Lenin without noting that his speech was all about freedom . I don’t think the left intended the appropriateness of President Reagan’s eloquent speech resurface during the current administration’s trip to Cuba:
But freedom is more even than this: Freedom is the right to question, and change the established way of doing things. It is the continuing revolution of the marketplace. It is the understanding that allows us to recognize shortcomings and seek solutions. It is the right to put forth an idea, scoffed at by the experts, and watch it catch fire among the people. It is the right to stick – to dream – to follow your dream, or stick to your conscience, even if you’re the only one in a sea of doubters.
Freedom is the recognition that no single person, no single authority of government has a monopoly on the truth, but that every individual life is infinitely precious, that every one of us put on this world has been put there for a reason and has something to offer.