The Struggle for Freedom Continues in Cuba
by MARIO T. DE LA PENA February 5, 2017 4:00 AM
Fidel Castro is dead, but Castroism still needs to be defeated
Fidel Castro died on November 25, but Castroism — the one-party,
neo-Stalinist system that has tyrannized Cuba for more than half a
century — still needs to be defeated.
Fidel's brother, Raúl, "president" of the island nation for most of the
last decade, has shown no signs of ending the political oppression and
human-rights violations that define the regime. To be sure, Raúl has
made a few minor reforms out of necessity, to open up the economy. But
those changes have not been accompanied by political reforms.
The Obama administration restored diplomatic relations with the Cuban
government and made it easier for Americans to travel and do business
there. On January 12 of this year, the administration announced that it
was ending the longstanding "wet foot, dry foot" policy that grants
permanent-resident status to any Cuban who makes it to the U.S. shore.
And back in October, the Obama administration announced the
implementation of Presidential Policy Directive 43, which directs the
Department of Defense to expand its relationship with Havana.
Other changes include permitting Americans to bring back as much Cuban
rum and cigars as they like from Cuba. "Already we are seeing what the
United States and Cuba can accomplish when we put aside the past and
work to build a brighter future," U.S. National Security Adviser Susan
Rice said at the time. "You can now celebrate with Cuban rum and Cuban
But Cubans aren't celebrating. Under Castroism, Cuba's main
accomplishments have been the highest per-capita rates of suicide,
abortion, and refugees in the Western Hemisphere. Cuba has the oldest
population in Latin America. Cuba ages and withers away, strangled by
The problem with Obama's overtures is that they have not been
reciprocated by the Cuban regime. There is still no respect for human
rights or political freedom. As Amnesty International put it recently:
Despite increasingly open diplomatic relations, severe restrictions on
freedoms of expression, association and movement continued. Thousands of
cases of harassment of government critics and arbitrary arrests and
detentions were reported.
But the situation is not hopeless. Cubans of different generations and
backgrounds are committed like never before to working for a free Cuba.
There are many things Cubans, Cuban Americans, and other people of
goodwill can do. They can support the resistance by encouraging those
who are involved in direct civic action on the island. For instance, the
Ladies in White, a group of wives, mothers, and sisters of jailed
dissidents, continue to suffer beatings, harassment, and jailing at the
hands of the government for their silent, non-violent marches. Such
protests are an indispensable means through which Cubans' rights will be
What must happen for Cuba to be free? The regime must give general
amnesty for all political prisoners. That means full rights to free
expression, access to information, assembly, association, peaceful
protest, profession, and worship.
Other essential rights include the right to collective bargaining, the
rule of law, checks and balances, and the balance of power, including an
A free Cuba will be realized only when multi-party elections are held
and the right to vote and the privacy of the ballot are respected. For
that to happen, a constitutional process must take place that includes a
constitutional convention and a referendum on a new constitution.
Many Cuban Americans hope that President Trump will be a stronger
advocate for human rights than Barack Obama was. During the campaign,
Trump promised to "stand with the Cuban people in their fight against
Communist oppression" and criticized the "concessions" that Barack Obama
made to the Castros. He promised to secure a "better deal" between the
two countries than the one Obama negotiated.
Trump should make it clear that he will sever diplomatic relations with
the Cuban government unless it makes progress to end political
repression, opens its markets, protects freedom of religion, and
releases all political prisoners.
The public may believe that, now that Fidel and Obama are gone, Cuba is
well on its way to being free. But Castroism didn't die with Fidel. The
repression and violence against the Cuban people continues. Economic
changes alone will not bring about democracy. They are important, but
only respect for human rights and political liberty will truly make Cuba
— Mario T. de la Peña is an advocate for a free and democratic Cuba who
has lived in the United States since 1962.
Source: Cuba Post-Castro: Repression Continues | National Review -