Post and Courier Editorial: An Opening for Cuban Freedom?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015
From The Charleston Post and Courier's Editorial Board:

An opening for Cuban freedom?

The re-opening of the America Embassy in Havana on Friday was a historic occasion. So fittingly, Secretary of State John Kerry was there — as were three U.S. Marines who took down the U.S. flag from our embassy 54 years ago — along with many Cuban dignitaries, including private citizens friendly with the government.

Bands played “The Star-Spangled Banner” and “La Bayamesa,” the stirring Cuban national anthem with its words that to live in chains is to live in shame.

But people in Castro Cuba struggling to keep the love of liberty sounded in “La Bayamesa” alive were not invited to the ceremony by Secretary Kerry. And many of them could not have attended.

Less than a week before the ceremony, 90 dissidents were arrested for protesting the re-opening of the American embassy. A demonstration organized in part by the Ladies in White — women whose husbands and children had been arrested by the Cuba dictatorship for political protests — was broken up by police.

Among those arrested was Angel Moya, a former political prisoner and husband of Berta Soler, head of the Ladies in White. Mr. Moya and others wore masks with the face of President Barack Obama. “It’s his fault, what is happening,” he told a reporter for Agence France Presse. He said that “the Cuban government has grown even bolder” in suppressing dissent since the U.S. re-opened diplomatic relations with the Castro regime.

The State Department said some dissidents who are not yet in jail were invited to a private party at the new ambassador’s residence following the official re-opening. Secretary Kerry said he would meet them there and afterward have “an open, free walk” in Havana.

“I look forward to meeting whoever I meet and listening to them and having, you know, whatever views come at me,” Mr. Kerry said, apparently oblivious of the tight control on speech imposed by Castro agents monitoring his “free” walk and anyone who speaks to him. They were trained, after all, by the notorious Stasi secret police of the now-defunct Communist government of East Germany.

To Secretary Kerry’s credit, though, in remarks broadcast on Cuban radio and television he said, “We remain convinced the people of Cuba would be best served by genuine democracy, where people are free to choose their leaders, express their ideas, practice their faith; where the commitment to economic and social justice is realized more fully; where institutions are answerable to those they serve; and where civil society is independent and allowed to flourish.”

The remarks were rebroadcast and printed in Granma, the official newspaper of the Castro government.

Cubans expressed surprise and support in interviews with foreign journalists. Said one Cuban, “For us it’s a drop of hope; it’s something we weren’t expecting.”

Further defending the opening of diplomatic relations with the Castro regime, Kerry said, “We believe our engaging in direct diplomatic relations with the Cuban government, being there, being able to interact with the people of Cuba, will in fact, help the people of Cuba. It will shed light on what is happening.”

There is already plenty of light on what is happening in Cuba, thanks to the Ladies in White and other promoters of real democracy.

What those brave groups need is constant support and frequent reinforcement of their message.

The American opening to Cuba will be a major disappointment if it does not lead in that direction by pressing the Cuban government to open the road to freedom.