Cuban resistance leader Antúnez to be Boehner’s guest during SOTU, speaks truth to power

Susan Crabtree in The Washington Examiner:

Boehner’s SOTU guest is top Cuban dissident

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House Speaker John Boehner will broadcast his opposition to President Obama’s executive action to normalize relations with Cuba to an international audience by bringing a top leader of the Cuban resistance movement to the State of the Union speech.

One of Boehner’s confirmed guests for the evening is Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, who is known as “Antunez.”

Antunez, the 43-year-old leader of Cuba’s civic resistance movement, served more than 17 years in prison, with the Castro regime releasing him in 2007 ahead of expected European sanctions. He lives in Cuba and will return there in two weeks.

He was imprisoned in 1990 after participating in a pro-democracy march. In prison, he refused to wear the uniform provided and rejected communist re-education lessons, which resulted in guards sending him to solitary confinement and adding more years to his original five-year sentence.

Already in Washington ahead of Obama’s speech, Antunez thanked Boehner for inviting him and said his presence at the speech is an “important recognition to the Cuban resistance” about the significance of their plight — especially now, just a few days after the administration eased major sanctions on the island nation for the first time in 50 years.

“He is an ambassador for the Cuban resistance — for those struggling inside Cuba,” Antunez told the Washington Examiner on Monday night through an interpreter. “He especially feels that he is here representing all of those prisoners who are not released in response to the Obama-Castro” agreement.

He also highlighted a document, the Agreement for Democracy, signed by top Cuban resistance leaders in 1998, laying out their demands from the Castro regime, including free and fair elections and the release of all political prisoners. He specifically named Ciro Alexis Casanova, Ernesto Borges Perez and Armando Sosa Fortuny as two resistance leaders who remain in prison that should be immediately released.

Antunez also had a strong message for Obama.

“He would tell President Barack Obama that the way to change Cuba is not by engaging the Castro regime — and that Cuba is not the Castro regime,” he said, making the point that “the stronger the regime becomes economically because of investment, the weaker the resistance becomes.”

He also took issue with what he regarded as Obama’s “secret negotiations” with the Castro regime, describing them as “illegitimate” because they did not involve resistance leaders or average Cubans.

“The future of Cuba should not have been agreed to in secret — as these secret negotiations between Cuba and the regime have been carried out,” he said. “No agreement that excludes the Cuban resistance and the Cuban people can be considered legitimate.”

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