Posted on Thursday, 05.22.14
No time to ease up on Cuba
OUR OPINION: Havana has done nothing to warrant U.S. concessions
Just as interest groups in this country mount a renewed effort to
improve U.S. relations with Cuba, the regime in Havana offers fresh
evidence that this is no time for Washington to ease restrictions on
trade and travel.
A letter signed by more than 40 prominent American business figures and
former diplomats urged President Obama to take advantage of Raúl
Castro's efforts to reform the moribund economy by changing the rules on
trade, travel and investment.
The impressive list of signers included two former heads of the U.S.
diplomatic mission in Havana, as well as Thomas Pickering, Strobe
Talbott and Arturo Valenzuela, all former ranking State Department
officials. "Timing matters," said the letter, "and this window of
opportunity may not remain open indefinitely."
Well, yes, timing does matter. On that, we would agree wholeheartedly.
So let's take a look at recent events in Cuba and consider the timing:
• The island's top human-rights group reported a sharp rise in
short-term arrests of Cuban dissidents in the first four months of this
year. The total came to 3,821, more than double the figure for the first
quarter of 2013. Human-rights leaders say this reflects rising popular
discontent and the government's grim determination to stifle it.
• This week, prominent blogger Yoani Sánchez attempted to break the
government's 55-year monopoly on distribution of information by
launching a digital newspaper called 14ymedio ("14 and a half" in
English). It was hacked shortly after its morning launch, and visitors
inside the island were redirected to a page devoted to criticizing Ms.
Sánchez — the work of a regime incapable of tolerating freedom of
• This week, also, a publication of the U.N. Security Council issued a
report playing up Cuba's role in trying to break the international
embargo on shipping arms to the rogue regime in North Korea last July.
Although the Security Council may wimp out by giving Cuba a mere slap on
the wrist, the report leaves no doubt that Cuba's role in the Chong Chon
Gang incident was an egregious violation of the international arms embargo.
• Meanwhile, four and half years after his initial arrest, U.S. citizen
Alan Gross spent his 65th birthday earlier this month in a Cuban jail.
The pretext for his incarceration amounts to no more than a Customs
violation, but he's actually being held as a political hostage in hopes
the United States will swap him for Cuban spies in U.S. jails.
And that's just a partial list of recent Cuban violations of
internationally recognized rules of conduct, violations that occur with
depressing regularity on the beleaguered island.
In March, the dissident group Ladies in White reported, for example,
that State Security officers detained several members handing out toys
at a park and seized the 60 to 70 toys. That's right — toys. During
Easter here in Miami, Archbishop Thomas Wenski asked that masses at the
Our Lady of Charity shrine say special prayers for Cuban dissident Sonia
Garro and two others jailed without trial in Cuba since shortly before a
papal mass in Havana in 2012.
This continuing display of unbending authoritarian rule makes it
imperative that the Obama administration take no actions that would be
deemed a concession to the unreformed, intransigent despots in Havana.
That is especially true regarding the plight of Alan Gross. Until he is
released, there can be no easing of sanctions against the Cuban regime.
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