A warning to America from a Cuban dissident
WHEN PRESIDENT Obama began the opening to Cuba a year ago, one of the arguments the White House advanced was that a full-fledged embassy in Havana would give U.S. diplomats more freedom to roam the island than was the case with the constricted “interests section” that existed earlier. The administration emphasized that expanded “people-to-people” contacts, including with Cuban dissidents and human rights activists, would be an important outcome of the thaw.
Antonio G. Rodiles, one of many Cubans who have suffered harassment, arrest and beatings for speaking out, heard those promises, but, in an interview at The Post this week, he expressed deep disappointment that it has not happened. Rather than more contact, he said, he has seen U.S. diplomats less than before and suggested the reason: The United States has made Raúl Castro and the Cuban regime its chief interlocutor. Concern about human rights, long a mainstay of U.S. policy toward Cuba, has been “sidelined,” he lamented. Cuba’s fractious opposition feels left out in the cold.
In the same week that Mr. Rodiles described this situation, Mr. Obama suggested in an interview with Yahoo News that he would go to Cuba before he leaves office only if he could “talk to everybody.” He added, “I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.” That’s a nice gesture, but it does not change the reality for most Cubans who live under Castro’s dictatorship.
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