Open Letter to Ben Rhodes: Excluding Critics in Miami and Havana

Thursday, March 10, 2016
By Guillermo I. Martinez in The Sun-Sentinel:

Does Obama administration care about Cubans on island?

The beatings have continued in Cuba despite normalization of relations

An open letter to White House staffer Ben Rhodes:

It is about time that you come and talk with members of the Cuban exile community.

I say this with a couple of drops of irony, since you negotiated the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba in total secrecy.

You negotiated in Canada and probably in Havana, but never in South Florida, where the vast majority of those who have had to flee the Cuban communist regime lives.

A few days ago, Secretary of State John Kerry had to cancel his trip to Cuba because the regime in Havana did not give him assurances he would be able to talk to the dissidents he wanted to meet.

And quite frankly, why should Cuba give Kerry, you or even President Obama assurances that you could meet with those openly opposed to the regime, which has governed Cuba for 57 long years?

The agreement to re-establish diplomatic relations was signed almost 15 months ago. At the time, both Cuba and the United States said it would take longer to normalize relations between the two governments.

At first, even though I was skeptical of the agreement, I hoped in some way the ordinary Cuban — the one who earns $20 per month in pay — would profit from the agreement.

Soon, even that slim hope of improvement in the quality of life for Cubans faded. Obama's government began to shower the Cuban government with gifts. They did all they could without violating outright the law that imposes an embargo of companies and people who seek to do business with Cuba.

Santa Obama was generous. He made it easier for Americans to travel to Cuba — but not as tourists (wink, wink). The agreement increased the amount of money Cubans in the United States could send to their relatives on the island and the frequency of these remittances. And, most recently it agreed to allow Cuba to purchase food and medicines on credit.

There is more, but it make me sick just to look up to find all the things Obama has given Cuba. In return Raul Castro says time and again that no matter what the United States gives or does, Cuba will remain a communist country, with one legal political party, without free elections, with total censorship and with harsh punishments for all those who dare disobey their mandates.

Two other things have happened as a result of the generosity of the Obama Administration:

The number of Cubans seeking to leave the island and come to the United States has grown exponentially.

Dissidents who remain in Cuba are repressed now more than before the establishment of diplomatic relations.

I am certain they give you the daily figures of how many Cubans are making the trip to the United States from all over the hemisphere and how many are harassed and beaten on Sundays when they march silently to protest against the regime.

Thousands of Cubans went to Ecuador, and from there to Central America with the hope they could cross Mexico on foot and get to the U.S. border, where they would be welcomed by the grace of the Cuban Adjustment Act.

At this point there are Cubans stuck in Costa Rica, Panama and Ecuador, waiting for a way north or an airline ticket to the land of milk and honey.

Yes Mr. Rhodes, the number of Cubans migrating to the United States has increased exponentially since the announcement of the agreement between Washington and Havana.

Another outcome of the agreement has been the huge increase in beatings, temporary arrests and even jail sentences to dissidents who dare protest peacefully against the regime.

I hope you use your time in South Florida wisely. There are dissidents here who plan to return to Cuba. You can talk to them. There are also victims of the Castro regime who could attest to the repression in the island.

You should talk to those opposed to what the administration is doing. You might learn something new.

I am fairly sure, however, you will limit your visits to those who already are willing to jump on a plane to do business in Cuba.

That would be a shame, for that indicates that neither you nor anybody in the Obama administration gives a damn about the lives of Cubans in the island.