A Sister's Response and Cuban Democracy Activists

Wednesday, June 11, 2014
By Jay Nordlinger in The National Review:

- In Impromptus today, there’s the usual mélange, including some items about Cuba. I would like to add one here. The Dallas Morning News published a travel piece about Cuba, the kind that appears regularly in our media. The cutesy title gives you the flavor: “Havana great time” (Havin’ a great time, geddit?). The caption under the first photo reads, “Beautiful decay is part of the Havana ambiance.” Ah, yes, the beautiful decay: such beautiful decay.

The paper received a letter to the editor, from an interested reader: Bonnie Rubinstein of Plano, the sister of Alan Gross, the American aid worker who was taken hostage in Cuba five years ago. NR and NRO readers are well familiar with this case. For example, we had a piece in an April 2011 issue, here. Not much has changed.

Ms. Rubinstein begins, “Writer Joy Tipping wrote a light and airy article about her travels to Cuba. My brother Alan Gross also traveled to Cuba four times on behalf of our government to bring in cellphones and computers to Cuba’s small Jewish community. On his fifth trip in December 2009, he was arrested and is now languishing in a Cuban jail cell (bringalanhome.org).”

Last week, I wrote something about Terry Anderson, the AP reporter who was held hostage in Lebanon, and his sister Peggy Say, who was his champion. Hurray for sisterly concern and boldness.

- All of my life, I have heard this, and maybe you have, too: “The U.S. embargo on Cuba is wrong and is hurting the Cuban people. The dissidents in Cuba don’t want the embargo. The only people who want the embargo are the government, which uses the issue to maintain its power and whip up anti-American feeling.”

Etc., etc. Funnily enough, I have interviewed a great many Cuban dissidents, including former political prisoners. (Actually, one of the prisoners I interviewed was on the lam. He reached me by phone, via a democracy activist in the U.S.) I’m not sure that many other journalists have interviewed as many dissidents. I have sought them out regularly, over the years.

And I believe I have asked each and every one of them, “What do you think of the embargo?” And I believe that each has said he supports it — for reasons I, and they, have explained over and over.

This leads me to this item. “Over 550 Cuban Democracy Activists Reject Efforts to Ease Sanctions.” The list includes some of the people I admire most in all the world — starting with the first name, Antúnez, the moniker of the leader who has been in and out of prison more times than I can count, and who has had the living hell beaten out of him (his wife has, too), and who never, ever breaks (neither does she).
There ought to be a statue of Antúnez somewhere (of Iris, too). If I had the nerve and the ability, I’d do it myself.

- A dissident I interviewed last year is Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White. These are the women — wives, daughters, and mothers of political prisoners — who walk and pray silently, and are attacked for their troubles. Physically, I mean.

To see a picture of some of them on Sunday, as they left a church service, go here. They were subsequently arrested, all of them.