Cuban Dissidents: Kerry Snub is a "Slap in the Face"

Wednesday, August 12, 2015
By Fox News:

Cuban dissidents say being snubbed from Embassy opening is ‘slap in the face’

José Lino Ascencio López, whose activism for freedom of speech and human rights in his native Cuba has landed him in jail there several times, wants to go the ceremony Friday for the historic opening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

But Lopez and other Cuban dissidents have not been invited by the Obama administration, which does not want to risk angering the Castro regime and ending up with Cuban officials boycotting a ceremony that is meant to be a key emblem of the renewed diplomatic relations between the two long-time adversaries.

“It is nothing less than a slap in the face to the opposition movement in Cuba,” Lopez said in an interview with Fox News Latino. “To explicitly keep away people who have risked their lives – whose blood has been shed, fighting for human rights, challenging the dictatorship of the Castro brothers – is an insult and an utter lack of compassion by U.S. officials.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day, officials said. Kerry's visit is the first by a sitting U.S. secretary of state to Cuba since World War II.

Lopez says it is important for dissidents to be able to attend the ceremony because it makes a statement that human rights is respected and that their struggle is valued.

“There are many of us still in jail, simply for raising the issue of freedom, of liberty,” Lopez said. “It’s the dictatorship’s political police keeping the repression going.”

Lopez said that if the past is any indication, Cuban security forces will make sure to keep dissidents away from the area around the new U.S. Embassy.

“They mobilize their neighborhood watch groups and make sure that those of us who live outside Havana can’t reach it,” said Lopez, who lives in Santa Clara, which is about a three-hour drive from Havana. “They’ll arrest some dissidents to make sure they’re unable to cause problems.”

Lopez was among 53 dissidents released by Cuban authorities earlier this year as part of the accord with the U.S. government to restore diplomatic relations.