Castro’s Repression at the White House Doorstep
Last March 11, Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser and chief architect of Barack Obama’s policy to Havana, met in Miami with activists and human rights defenders in Cuba. One of those attending the meeting, Carlos Amel Oliva, a member of the Patriotic Union of Cuba, was arrested on his return to the Island. He's still under arrest.
However, this has not been the only repressive act carried out by the Castro regime these days, prior to the visit of the US President.
Yesterday we learned of the arrest of several independent journalists and of citations and warnings to other reporters and activists by the political police.
On Sunday 13 March, just two days after the meeting of Rhodes in Miami, we learned of the heart-rending testimony of the Lady in White Aliuska Gomez; handcuffed, stripped naked by force, and dragged by a group of henchmen to a dungeon in Havana.
That same day, after the crackdown against #TodosMarchamos, the regime organized his followers into a carnivalesque troupe -music included- and rewarded them with lunch boxes at Gandhi Park, the place for demands of the Ladies in White, a group which, by a personal letter delivered by Rhodes in Miami to one of their representatives, Obama had just called "an inspiration for human rights movements."
With the escalated crackdown, Raul Castro sends a clear message to Obama while mocking the US president, who in December said he was "very interested" in going to Cuba if he could "claim with confidence that we are seeing some progress in freedom".
Being it clearer now that human rights have not only not improved but worsen ostensibly -by arresting an activist who met in Miami with the emissary of the President, Castroist repression has reached the very doorstep of the White House- Obama's visit will occur in a climate of intensified confrontation between the regime and pro-democracy forces.
Barack Obama and his team -who have not ceased to make explicit their disagreement with Havana in the field of human rights-, would do well to make clear and public this stance during his visit, to all Cubans. Anything other than a clear signal of defending democracy and human rights would be nothing more than a way to prolong the suffering of the people of Cuba and especially its fighters and peace activists; something that, ultimately, will also damage US interests.
President Obama should not forget that the best for both countries, Cuba and the United States, is a democratic and prosperous island. Anything else, including a purely commercial and economic transition to State capitalism, which is gradually making headway, will only bring more repression, more violence, and more social fracture and corruption.