Dissidents React to Anniversary of U.S.-Cuba Ties

Thursday, July 21, 2016
Various Cuban dissidents have reacted to the one-year anniversary of U.S.-Cuba ties.

Diario de Cuba has a compilation of their reactions.

Below are some excerpts.

Berta Soler, Leader of the Ladies in White:

One year after the Interests Section gave way to an Embassy, the change has been very great, not only in terms of the name, but how the Embassy of the United States is behaving.

Right now I can say that many human rights activists who had computer time there, to communicate with the outside, and be able to report on their work and the situation on the Island, have been affected.

Civil society's access to the computers is not facilitated in any way. I cannot say that attention by or contact with US officials has ceased to exist, but we have seen everything change.

The computers to which we had access are now being used for English courses for young people. We are not against this, but these are young people affiliated with the Communist Party. They are not representatives of civil society, and they are not opponents of the Government. They are persons hand-picked by the Cuban Government.

These relations between the US government and the Cuban regime have not benefited the people of Cuba at all. What we see is that the only thing President Barack Obama is interested in is business: doing business with the military because here it is the Revolutionary Armed Forces that run Gaviota, and the TRD.

These are businesses transactions that will not benefit the people of Cuba or bring about change. After Obama's visit, we have seen how police and State Security Department repression against people who want to exercise their freedom of expression and peaceful demonstration, has only gotten worse.

For example: the Ladies in White. We have been harassed for 62 Sundays in a row. And the US government has not spoken up to demand that the Cuban regime cease its actions.

Martha Beatriz Roque, former prisoner of the "Group of 75":

The high hopes sparked by the resumption of relations with the US government have been largely dashed. We have endured a year full of hardships, and the next one will be even harder.

People thought that an improvement in relations could mean an improvement for the people. This was what President Obama said at all times, that civil society was going to notice the improvements, but so far this has not been the case. The only thing it has experienced to date has been the regime's kicks and punches.

The regime, on the other hand, has benefited from the easing of restrictions enacted by the Obama Administration, while the people continue to languish, with the same old problems, now aggravated by the deficient transport, power outages, and water shortages.

What the Obama administration has done is to funnel money into the pockets of the Castro brothers, not into those of the average Cuban. And the Washington-Havana relations have served to buoy the regime internationally.

Antonio Rodiles, Coordinator of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms (ForoDyL):

A year ago relations were restored but, if one counts the 18 months of the confidential political process leading up to that achievement, it has been some 3 years of rapprochement between Washington and Havana. During this period what has been most evident is an increase in repression and violence on the Island.

This is a trend that has affected not only the opposition and human rights activists, but also the population at large, ordinary Cubans who do not get involved in politics because they are afraid to; the self-employed, for example, with fines, controls, and the whole issue of abusive and excessive taxes.

What we are seeing is a regime that, though it has opened up in the international sphere, at home is doubling down on its repressive policies. A sign of this is the relentless flight of Cubans abroad we have been recently been witnessing.

The Obama Administration had stated that this was best way to bring about positive change in Cuba, but I think it is high time that it at least begin to publicly recognize that things are not going as they expected, because what we are experiencing is a process curtailing all the freedoms and rights of Cubans.

From the outset the Forum for Rights and Freedoms identified the need for a real political process in which the regime also had to take steps. This is not what has happened. The people behind this agenda of continuing to grant concessions, without requiring anything from the regime in return, are proving to be somewhat obstinate.

It is very worrisome that in recent weeks we have seen a wave of imprisonments, not only temporary arrests, while Washington remains utterly silent about the situation. Moreover, the famous empowerment that the self-employed were going to enjoy has yet to materialize.

The regime's response to the Obama Administration's measures has been its traditional backwardness, and it is surprising that there have been no statements released, by any institution, including human rights groups, with respect to the current situation.