One Year After Obama Recognized Their Dictator, Cuba's Dissidents Cry Foul

Thursday, December 17, 2015
By Mike Gonzalez in Forbes:

One Year After Obama Recognized Their Dictator, Cuba's Dissidents Cry Foul

It’s been a full year since President Obama announced he would recognize the dictatorship of Raul Castro, and the tally so far is grim. Cuba is further than ever from becoming a democracy where people enjoy normal civil liberties; it is in fact closer to becoming what China specialist have identified as a rival model, a “resilient authoritarian regime.”

Just last week, the Castro regime thumbed its nose at the world by arresting between 150-200 dissidents on Human Rights Day. The dictator, Raul Castro, knows he can act with impunity because the world has never complained about what he does, and now that, too, includes the United States.

For 34 consecutive Sundays—that is, almost since President Obama extended his hand in friendship to the country’s oppressors—regime-organized mobs have blocked a brave group of middle-aged women known as the Ladies in White from marching after church service. These women are always insulted, often beaten and occasionally arrested.

Meanwhile, Castro has put family members in charge of a corrupt regime that can now expect to have durability after the two Castro brothers pass from the scene. Castro’s son-in-law, Gen. Luis Alberto Rodriguez, controls an estimated 90 percent of the Cuban economy through the holding company he leads, GAESA. As Bloomberg put it recently about would-be foreign investors, “wait until they learn all roads lead to Raul Castro’s son-in-law.”

The island’s defenseless dissidents have bitterly denounced what they term Obama’s betrayal of their movement. On the day of the anniversary this week, more than 100 former political prisoners who served close to 2,000 years in Castro’s Gulag signed and prepared to deliver to the administration a letter, the first three paragraphs of which read:

"Mr. President:

Based on our history and experience as political prisoners under Castro’s totalitarian regime, the new Cuba’s policy established by your Administration is has been a regrettable mistake. This will prolong the life of the dictatorship, is worsening the human rights situation there, marginalizing the democratic opposition and compromising U.S. national security.

The normalization of relations is creating false expectations and granting benefits to the tyrannical regime in Cuba; it is also allowing the Paris Club to forgive billions in debt providing the regime hard currency which it funnels into its most repressive institutions: the military and intelligence services giving new life to what were dying institutions.  Human rights violations in Cuba have a terrible history, but the current policy has taken a bad situation and made it worse. Violent beatings against activists peacefully assembling have escalated and worsened over 2015.

Politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Cuba as of the end of November 2015 are a documented total of 7,686 and are on track to break the previous record set in 2014 with 8,899 arrests. Over the course of this year the number of detentions have [sic] escalated: 178 in January; 492 in February; 610 in March; 338 in April; 641 in May; 563 in June; 674 in July; 768 in August; 882 in September; 1,093 in October; and 1,447 in November."

As is customary with Mr. Obama, his belief that he’s done the right thing remains unshakable. In fact, he recently told Yahoo News that he wants to reward the Castro brothers with nothing less than a presidential visit next year.

The problem is, Mr. Obama won’t be just another Birkenstock-shod leftist academic who treks to Havana to soak up the Revolution. He will bring with him the insignia and the cache of the presidency of the most important country on earth.

The Yahoo interview revealed once more that Mr. Obama’s Cuba policy is imbued with extraordinary (and dangerous) naïveté.

Of Castro, he said, “I do see in him a big streak of pragmatism. In that sense, I don’t think he is an ideologue,” said the president, who even sees the totalitarian leader as a forward thinker. “I do also think that Raul Castro recognizes the need for change,” he averred. “And part of the reason for the timing of these changes is his desire to help usher in those changes before he and his brothers are gone.”

On this last score, President Obama is very much correct, as these changes will surely make Gen. Rodriguez’s business even more lucrative. Let’s hope, of course, that this could not have been what the president meant.

On Raul’s pragmatism and ideology, these views are contradicted by everything we know about the dictator, who’s long been considered the more ideologically committed of the two Castro brothers—the Bolshevik who converted his older brother Fidel. He is renowned also as the more bloodthirsty one.

The Cuba Archive Project has documented 191 executions on Raul’s orders in the first month and a half of his tenure as military governor of Oriente Province in 1959. These are just the cases that were documented. Eyewitness said that Raul personally administered the coup degrace to at least 78. The killings have continued for the five-and-a-half decades the Castros have controlled the once-wealthy island of Cuba.

This is the man with whom President Obama will meet and joke if he goes to Havana.

Mr. Obama told Yahoo that he would make the trip only if he can meet whomever he wants, presumably meaning dissidents. I spoke to one of them this week, Antonio Rodiles, who happens to be visiting Washington. He told me that he’d be delighted to be invited to the White House. “I don’t think they’ll have me, though. They don’t want to hear anything that contradicts their failed predictions."