WSJ Editorial: Castro Tries to Exile Dissidents Ahead of Obama's Visit

Thursday, February 25, 2016
From The Wall Street Journal's Editorial Board:

Cuba Isn’t Libre

The Castro brothers try to exile dissidents for Obama’s March visit

The media build-up to President Obama’s March 21 visit to Cuba is well along pumping “historic” significance into the trip. That’s what happened last year when Pope Francis visited Cuba, with “history” served by publicizing photographs of the pontiff with Fidel and Raul Castro. The real story in Cuba, though, is always out of sight, in the cells of its many political prisoners.

Human-rights groups recently have noted something odd about Mr. Obama’s historic normalization of relations with Cuba in late 2014. Since then the number of individuals jailed arbitrarily has gone up. This past January, according to the Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights, some 1,474 individuals were jailed at the regime’s whim, more than 500 of them women.

On Monday Cuba’s interior ministry told eight paroled political prisoners that they were being given permission to make a “one-time” trip abroad. Unlike Americans hopping on planes to discover Cuba, the average Cuban can’t leave the island without permission.

The response of the dissidents to the get-out-of-Cuba offer speaks volumes about the reality of life there. Felix Navarro called it a “strategy” related to the Obama visit and said he isn’t leaving. “I will always continue to live in Cuba,” Mr. Navarro said.

Marta Beatriz Roque, the one woman in the group, said “My perception is that they want us to stay [outside of Cuba], but I’ve been going along like this for 25 years and I’m not going to throw in the towel for a trip.”

Announcing his March trip Saturday, Mr. Obama said he will “speak candidly” there about “our serious differences” on democracy and human rights. Asked about the President’s intentions last week, Josefina Vidal of Cuba’s foreign ministry said, “Cuba is open to speak to the U.S. government about any topic, including human rights.” But she added: “We have different ideas about human rights.”

It’s nice, we guess, that Fidel and Raul are willing to chat about all this with President Obama. More significant will be the day when one of these historic visitors from the free world asks to visit with Cuba’s political prisoners in their cells.