Free Cuba Foundation on Obama’s policy towards Castro regime: Not in our name

By Neri Martinez and Pedro Ross in the Huffington Post:

Not In Our Name
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Neri Martinez

The Free Cuba Foundation (FCF) was founded at Florida International University in 1993. Throughout its history, FCF has been a steadfast and independent voice in favor nonviolent resistance to injustice and tyranny.

We agree with President Obama on one general observation from his December 17 statement: that one cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. Unfortunately, the efforts of the Clinton Administration to engage the Castro dictatorship as well as loosen sanctions before and after 1996 went unmentioned in President Obama’s comments. President Clinton began joint military exercises with the Castro regime in 1994 in pursuit of normalized relations. The shootdown of two Brothers to the Rescue planes on February 24, 1996, by Castro regime MiGs — which killed Armando Alejandre Jr. (age 45), Carlos Alberto Costa (age 29), Mario Manuel de la Peña (age 24) and Pablo Morales (age 29) — led to the passage and signing of The Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity (Libertad) Act by Congress as an alternative to military action in an election year.

The attack took place on a day that a national gathering called Concilio Cubano was tohave started. A massive crackdown had beenunderway for days attracting international press attention. Despite this act of state terrorism against Americans, President Bill Clinton shook hands with Fidel Castro in 2000 and loosened sanctions that opened cash and carry exports from American corporations to the Castro regime. This turned the United States into one of the top five trading partners of the Castro regime.

Economic sanctions were not designed to overthrow the dictatorship but were part of a policy of containment to prevent the spread of its totalitarian model. The rise of Hugo Chavez and the spread of Cuban influence in Venezuela began during Bill Clinton’s presidency and are now harming the entire region undermining the democratic gains of the 1980s and early 1990s. Despite this disaster, the Obama Administration began in 2009 to loosen sanctions on the Cuban dictatorship. The Castro regime’s response was to take Alan Gross, a U.S. citizen, hostage. The Obama administration remained very low key about Gross’s arrest, and it was 25 days before U.S. diplomats even saw this jailed American. FCF believes that this lack of concern sent a message to the dictatorship that they could continue to arbitrarily detain Gross and use him as a bargaining chip in their goals to secure the release of five Cuban spies captured in 1998. These five had not only engaged in spying on U.S.-military facilities but planned terrorist acts on U.S. soil and were criminally involved in the February 24, 1996 shoot down.

As was the case in 1996, this policy of appeasement had dire consequences for the democratic opposition in Cuba, which suffered several setbacks over the next four years. Prisoner-of-conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died on hunger strike under suspicious circumstances in 2010; Ladies in White founder Laura Inés Pollán Toledo died from a suspicious illness in 2011; and Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas and Harold Cepero died in the summer of 2012, under circumstances that point to a state security killing. Rising violence against opposition activists, including machete attacks, is a new and disturbing phenomenon.

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