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Cubans pay the price for Obama’s ‘engagement’ with the Castros

Cubans pay the price for Obama’s ‘engagement’ with the Castros
By Jeff Jacoby GLOBE COLUMNIST JULY 07, 2015

GLOBE STAFF ILLUSTRATION

On July 1, President Obama announced the formal resumption of diplomatic
relations with Cuba, asserting confidently that “American engagement . .
. is the best way to advance our interests and support for democracy and
human rights.”

On July 5, the Communist regime in Havana delivered its customary
response. It arrested more than 80 democratic dissidents, including at
least 60 members of Ladies in White, a peaceful group of brave women who
march weekly in support of husbands, fathers, and other relatives
imprisoned in the Castros’ jails. Many of those detained were hurt, some
severely. One prominent human rights activist, Antonio Rodiles, was sent
to the hospital with a shattered nose; he had reportedly been handcuffed
by security forces, then beaten for shouting “Long live freedom” and
“Long live human rights.”

There had been even more arrests and beatings in the days leading up to
Obama’s Rose Garden statement. Some 225 Cuban dissidents across the
island were arrested the previous Sunday, with Ladies in White again
prominent among those targeted. In fact, there have been police actions
against Cuban democrats for 12 Sundays in a row — the government makes a
point of going after dissidents as they walk to Mass or emerge from
church holding photos of imprisoned loved ones.

Like most US advocates of normalizing relations with the only all-out
dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, Obama claims that warming up to
the Castro regime is the most effective way to promote freedom and
liberal reform in Cuba. When he announced last December that ties
between Havana and Washington were going to be restored, the president
declared that “we can do more to support the Cuban people and promote
our values through engagement.” Now, nearly seven months later, he
reiterates “America’s enduring support for universal values, like
freedom of speech and assembly,” and he insists that his administration
“will not hesitate to speak out when we see actions that contradict
those values.”

No? Over the past seven months, life for Cuba’s people has grown even
more unfree. Yet far from forthrightly condemning the repression, Obama
serenely counsels patience: “Nobody expects Cuba to be transformed
overnight,” he says.

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There have been more than 3,000 political detentions on the island since
last December, according to The Washington Post. The paper quotes Mario
Felix Lleonart, a Cuban Baptist pastor who laments that he, like many,
“had hoped, following the announcement about normalizing relations
between the US and Cuba, that there would be a stop to — or at least a
lessening of — the beatings” of dissidents. “We now know that what is
happening is precisely the opposite.”

The policy that Obama now embraces is also “precisely the opposite” of
the one he feigned to uphold as a candidate for president.

Once upon a time, Obama maintained that there would be no American
embassy in Havana until all of Cuba’s political prisoners were free. Now
he trumpets John Kerry’s forthcoming trip to Havana “to proudly raise
the American flag over our embassy once more,” even as Cuba continues to
lock up men and women for daring to seek the democratic liberties
Americans take for granted.

The Obama administration is bestowing tremendous gifts on Cuba’s rulers:
diplomatic legitimation, a public-relations triumph, an influx of hard
currency, and expanded influence in Washington. All this the Castros are
getting in exchange for nothing: no elections, no free press, no end to
beating peaceful protesters, no justice for the many victims of Cuban
totalitarianism.

“Castroism has won,” mourned the Cuban dissident Yoani Sánchez last
winter, when Obama announced an end to America’s principled policy on
Cuba. If it wasn’t obvious then, it is now.

Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter
@jeff_jacoby.

Source: Obama’s ‘engagement’ with Cuba’s rulers comes at the expense of
its people – Opinion – The Boston Globe –
https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/2015/07/07/obama-engagement-with-cuba-rulers-comes-expense-its-people/hdT49OQfjH7Y2UjC0bhEtJ/story.html

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