Did The White House Really Say That (About Cuba's Political Prisoners)?

Thursday, January 8, 2015
Asked about The White House's insistence on keeping secret the identities of 53 Cuban political prisoners, who General Castro promised President Obama he'd release, Press Secretary Josh Earnest answered:

"[W]e’re not in a position to talk about specific numbers, and the reason for that is simply that we’ve been careful about talking about the number of prisoners and who they are because we don’t want to put an even bigger target on their back as political dissidents."

Put "an even bigger target on their back"?

They're in prison, for God's sake.

Moreover, they have courageously -- and publicly -- challenged Cuba's totalitarian dictatorship.

It's by keeping their numbers and identities secret that the Castro regime is empowered to do with them as it pleases.

History's most renowned political prisoners -- from Nelson Mandela, to Vaclav Havel, to Natan Sharansky -- have all agreed that the way to empower and protect imprisoned activist is by shining a light on them.

For decades the Castro regime has used the revolving-door of its political prisons to extract concessions from foreign leaders. Obviously, bad habits die hard -- both for the Castro regime and the foreign leaders that embolden its coercion.

However, from the 3,600 political prisoners that Castro released to President Carter in 1978 to the release of the Black Spring's 75 in 2010, their identities have never been kept secret.

(As an aside, after the release of the Black Spring's 75 in 2010, a favorite talking point of anti-sanctions lobbyists, including a Harvard academic, was that there weren't any more political prisoners in Cuba. A lie that has clearly been unmasked.)

Since President Obama's December 17th announcement, five political prisoners have (yesterday) been released -- Diango Vargas Martin, Bianko Vargas Martin, Enrique Figuerola Miranda, Ernesto Riveri Gascon and Lazaro Romero Hurtado -- all activists from the Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU), whose sentences were almost complete.

That's good news.

However, nearly 100 short-term political arrests have also taken place since December 17th, while two appear headed for longer sentences -- Cuban artist Danilo Maldonado ("El Sexto") and Sonia de la Caridad Gonzalez Mejias.

(Not to mention the 13,000 political arrests that took place during the Obama-Castro secret negotiations.)

Also, yesterday, Daniel Moreno de la Pena, was sentenced to eight months of hard labor.

Thus, as Castro clearly prepares for his next coercion, the questions remains: Will the releases catch up to the arrests?

(Note that all five political prisoners released pursuant to Obama's deal, thus far, were arrested after the release of the Black Spring's 75 in 2010. Further proof of the revolving-door of Castro's prisons.)

Time will tell.

One thing is for sure -- the U.S.'s secrecy only benefits Castro.