President Obama’s “historic” trip to Cuba, which began on Sunday, is a legacy-building monument to both him and the Castros. But for the Cuban people, it’s business as usual.
According to human right organizations, the Cuban government’s repression of its people shows little sign of being weakened by Obama’s friendly outreach in the waning days of his presidency.
“Cubans are being beaten, arrested, and otherwise muzzled at higher rates than ever before,” Sen. Bob Menendez said on the Senate floor last week. “The Cuban Commission for Human Rights has documented 1,141 political arrests by the Castro regime in Cuba during the short month of February 2016. In January 2016, the CCHR documented 1,447 political arrests. As such, these 2,588 political arrests — thus far — represent the highest tally to begin a year in decades.”
According to a Human Rights Watch report, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation received more than 6,200 reports of arbitrary detentions from January through October 2015. While this is a relatively minor decrease from the number of detentions during the same period in 2014, “it was still significantly higher than the number of yearly detentions prior to 2012,” the report stated. “Other repressive tactics employed by the government include beatings, public acts of shaming, and the termination of employment.”
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest last summer suggested some kind of amelioration of Cuban brutality might be needed before Obama gave the Castros the PR benefit of a presidential visit.
“The amount of progress that the Cuban government is making as it relates generally to the protection of basic human rights will factor into the decision by the president to travel to Cuba if he makes the decision to travel to Cuba,” Earnest said. It appears that was just for laughs, though.
And Obama is not alone on his visit. He took the family, too, including his mother in law, a sure sign that this is not a sober diplomatic undertaking but a full-on party, complete with dancing on the graves of the masses killed by the Castros. Oh, and a baseball game.
While Cuba’s peasants chew on black beans and rice, if they can get them, Obama will be treated to a lavish feast in a palace — of course, euphamized as the “Revolutionary” Palace.
<blockquote><strong>In the days leading up to Obama’s arrival, the Cuban government was literally paving over the past so Obama wouldn’t have to be bothered by it.</strong></blockquote>
In the days leading up to Obama’s arrival, the Cuban government was literally paving over the past so Obama wouldn’t have to be bothered by it.
“Streets in the hotel district of Vedado were cordoned off as machines resurfaced roadways,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “Gardeners in local city parks added fresh plants, and painters in blue jumpsuits dangled several stories as they applied a fresh coat of paint to the facade of a 1960s-style health ministry building.”
Yes, Obama will meet with some dissidents. But nobody will remember that. What they will recall is that the United States has given its blessing to the Castros’ rule without extracting anything in exchange. What’s more, the dissidents he will convene with are no doubt in the same jeopardy as Carlos Amel Oliva, head of the youth wing of the Cuban Patriotic Union, who was arrested recently after returning to Cuba from a Miami meeting with Obama advisor Ben Rhodes.
Obama is being accompanied by a bunch of American business types who no doubt have dreams of profitable Caribbean resorts and new sources of cheap labor dancing in their heads.
One of these, according to the New York Times, will be Carlos Gutierrez, who as George W. Bush’s secretary of commerce called for tightening sanctions on Cuba. Now, as chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s U.S.-Cuba Business Council, he has other priorities.
Menendez, the son of Cuban immigrants, derided Obama’s cap-feathering.
“I understand the desire to make this his legacy issue, but there is still a fundamental issue of freedom and democracy at stake,” he said.
“The simple truth is — deals with the Devil require the Devil to deal. Opening channels of communication controlled by the regime means nothing unless we are going to communicate our values,” Menendez said. The Castros retain their iron grip, and “until that power is truly challenged, we can expect to witness the further weakening of our leverage.”
A version of this post appeared in LifeZette.