Theater of the absurd in Havana: dissidents meet with The Great Visitor


Yesterday, most of the journalists covering the Coronation Visit neglected to mention that a group of dissidents met with The Great Visitor.

Reports of this meeting may start appearing here and there, but so far it has been difficult to get information or learn about what transpired in that room.

Diario de Cuba is one notable exception.  They have published a fairly detailed account of the meeting.  It is worth reading.  You can find it HERE (in Spanish).

Since the report is long, and many of our readers can read Spanish, this post will only cover the basics and feature some of the most significant details for those readers who need an English language summary.

1. Who attended?

Here is a list of the dissidents who met with the current occupant of the White House:

The leader of la Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU), José Daniel Ferrer; the director of Estado de SATS, Antonio G. Rodiles; blogger Míriam Celaya; heroic hunger striker and leader of the Foro Anti Totalitario Unido  Guillermo Fariñas; an attorney from Cubalex, Laritza Diversent; the leader of the Arco Progresista party, Manuel Cuesta Morúa; the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler; the spokesman for la Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN), Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz; the director of the magazine Convivencia, Dagoberto Valdés, and dissident Miriam Leyva.

Also present were Ángel Yunier Remón, Juana Mora Cedeño, Nelson Álvarez Matute.

2. What transpired?  

Apparently, the Cubans in the room did most of the talking and The Great Visitor did a lot of listening.   The Great Visitor said he admired all their efforts and advised them to form a unified front.  The dissidents expressed a wide array of opinions.  Some of them agreed with current U.S. policies and thanked The Great Visitor profusely.  Others expressed doubts about his policies.  And others expressed great dismay over his policies.

Apparently, the dialogue was very calm and the disagreements voiced did not lead to any sort of confrontation.

According to Guillermo Fariñas, when the The Great Visitor’s policies were criticized by some in the room he promised to “publicly admit he was wrong” if his policies toward the Castro regime failed to free the Cuban people.

Elizardo Sánchez Santacruz, handed The Great Visitor a list of political prisoners, so he could pass it on to King Raul.

“Let’s see if Raul keeps his promise to free them,” commented Fariñas.

The most outspoken critics of current U.S. policies seem to have been Berta Soler and Antonio Rodiles, both of whom told The Great Visitor that he shouldn’t have come to Cuba.  Rodiles also pointed out that most of the dissidents invited were in favor of the current policies and that many who could have voiced strong opposition to The Great Visitor’s policies were shut out of the meeting.   “Although the discussion was positive,” said Rodiles, “I would have liked to see artists such as Gorki Águila, Danilo Maldonado or Ailer González join the meeting.”

So…. if you can, read the whole article.  Follow the link above.  It does seem that the deck was stacked — what else could one expect? — but at least this was one photo op that went against the grain of all the others.

3. What was accomplished?

Who knows?  The Great Visitor doesn’t like to be criticized, but he allowed Berta Soler and Antonio Rodiles tell him to his face that his approach to Castrogonia was wrong.

It made for great theater, at least…. a very Cuban theater of the absurd, with no climactic scene, save for the disillusionment that many will inevitably experience after the performance.

It was also a very American commercial of sorts: a slick Madison Avenue/ Mad Men advertising agency event.  It certainly made The Great Visitor look good, and it made Raul look good too, and it sold them to the public as great men, worthy of admiration.

Perhaps no other event in the Coronation Visit was more carefully staged, more purposely designed to fool the eye and win hearts and minds among the ignorant.  In other words, it was great propaganda, especially for King Raul, and the odds of this meeting leading to any significant change are slim to none.

More of the usual.  What else could one expect?  The Coronation Visit was all about images rather than substance.  And one image says it all.

4 thoughts on “Theater of the absurd in Havana: dissidents meet with The Great Visitor”

  1. I believe this is called going through the motions for the sake of PR, but thanks, Carlos, for this very good synopsis. At least the deck was not stacked as badly as at the White House meeting with Cuban-American “leaders,” where everybody invited was either for or OK with Obama’s Cuba policy (including that famous Mexican, Emilio Estefan).

    Do note the absence of Dr. Biscet, and the fact that the far more, uh, “nuanced” and “progressive” Manuel Cuesta Morúa was seated next to Obama. What a coincidence, no?

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