Sunday, December 15, 2013

For Cubans, freedom remains elusive

For Cubans, freedom remains elusive
By Elsa Morejon, Published: November 30

Elsa Morejon is a human rights activist and registered nurse who resides
in Cuba. She has been forbidden from medical work since 1998.

A few weeks ago, President Obama invited my husband, Oscar Elías Biscet,
and me to a dinner to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the creation of
the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Many thought that in light of Obama's
efforts to improve relations between the United States and Cuba, Gen.
Raúl Castro, Cuba's president, would approve a passport for Oscar so
that he could attend. Such was not the case.

Oscar is a physician, but he is not allowed to practice medicine.
Amnesty International has named him a prisoner of conscience for his
years in jail for defending human rights. He is a follower of the
philosophy of Gandhi and King. In 2007, President George W. Bush awarded
Oscar the Medal of Freedom. But he could not receive the award in person
because he was in prison, where he had been sentenced to a term of 25
years. Oscar was released in 2011, but in many ways he's still a
prisoner because he can't leave the island.

I, however, was permitted to travel to Washington, and I attended the
recent dinner, where the president and Secretary of State John Kerry
told me that they regretted Oscar's absence.

Because of the widespread belief that Cubans now have the right to
travel abroad, some have expressed surprise that Oscar was not allowed
to leave the island. The right to travel is enjoyed without restriction
by billions of people worldwide. It is recognized by the U.N. Universal
Declaration of Human Rights.

But there is much confusion about what is happening in Cuba today. For
example, the political prisoners released a few years ago through the
offices of the Catholic Church were compelled to accept that their
release was conditioned on their exile, and that of relatives including
children, to Spain.

My husband is grateful to Presidents Obama and George W. Bush, to
Americans and to people in Europe and Latin America for their support of
Cubans' desire for freedom. Oscar would have wanted to speak to the
president about the tragic conditions in which the Cuban people live:

●Regime repression has increased to a level unparalleled since the
1960s. Hundreds of arbitrary arrests have been made this year, as well
as physical attacks on peaceful demonstrators.
●Raúl Castro does not permit Amnesty International, the International
Committee of the Red Cross or similar organizations to visit Cuban prisons.
●The promises of Raúl Castro are all too reminiscent of ones made by his
brother Fidel. In 2007, Raúl Castro said that every Cuban would have a
glass of milk. We are still waiting.
●International humanitarian aid sent to the island after Hurricane Sandy
was not distributed to people in flooded areas but instead given to
armed forces and directed to stores where it could be resold at prices
well beyond the reach of ordinary Cubans.
●Despite Obama's efforts to improve bilateral relations, the Cuban
regime continues to hold an American hostage. Alan Gross was condemned
to 15 years in prison for giving a portable computer and a cellphone to
Cuban Jews, actions not recognized as crimes in the civilized world.

Many thought that Raúl Castro's accession to power would end the
government's support of international terrorism and of terrorist
anti-American regimes around the globe. But just this summer Panama
intercepted a North Korean ship carrying a load of Cuban sugar. Beneath
the more than 200,000 sacks of sugar were Soviet-era missile radar
equipment and other weapons — in violation of U.N. sanctions against the
provision of weaponry to North Korea's tyrannical regime. In recent
days, the Cuban regime has been carrying out a vast military maneuver,
known as Bastion 2013, to defend the island against an American invasion
that will never come.

As the Christmas season approaches, my husband and I pray to God that
the resources the Cuban government devotes to its armed forces and to
the repression of the civilian population will instead be used to
ameliorate the poverty and hunger of the Cuban people. We pray also for
the prompt arrival of freedom in Cuba.

Source: "For Cubans, freedom remains elusive - The Washington Post" -

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