Proof That Obama Was Wrong About Cuba
Mike Gonzalez / @Gundisalvus / December 21, 2015
Mike Gonzalez, a senior fellow at The Heritage Foundation, is a widely
experienced international correspondent, commentator and editor who has
reported from Asia, Europe and Latin America. He served in the George W.
Bush Administration first at the Securities and Exchange Commission and
then at the State Department. His book, "A Race for the Future: How
Conservatives Can Break the Liberal Monopoly on Hispanic Americans," was
published in September.
"To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the
silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history,
but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."
These stirring words came in President Barack Obama's first
inaugural address. It's taken seven years to make clear they were
The right side of history is whatever side the president is on, and
America's enemies don't need to stop punching dissidents with clenched
fists to get a hug.
Exhibit A to prove this is, again, the little state of Cuba, 90 miles
from U.S. shores.
Antonio Rodiles, who is the leader of the Cuban democratic movement, was
re-arrested for "disorderly conduct" on Sunday for speaking his mind in
Rodiles was just here last week in Washington, D.C. (he was interviewed
by The Daily Signal), and had high-profile meetings with members of
Congress and at the State Department.
Meanwhile, the country's dictator, Raúl Castro, donned this military
uniform for an unannounced TV appearance last Friday to denounce the
United States and make more demands.
Rodiles, and other pro-democracy activists, have said all along that
Obama's decision to grant the Castro regime recognition a year ago would
prove to be a costly mistake for Cubans.
By extracting no conditions in exchange for relations, Obama has allowed
Castro to act with impunity with his opponents.
He hasn't been wrong, as Rodiles himself can physically attest, as he
was beaten up during an arrest back in July. According to dissidents,
political detentions are at a documented total of 7,686 through the
first 11 months this year, set to break the worst year on record: 2014,
with 8,899 arrests.
It's a message Rodiles took to Congress last week in meetings with Reps.
Alex Mooney, R-W.Va.; Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla.; Mario Diaz-Balart,
R-Fla.; and Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla. (who all are of Cuban origin), as
well as in the State Department, where he met, among others, with
Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson.
These meetings took place on Dec. 17, which was of symbolic importance,
as it was the one-year anniversary of Obama's announcement that the
United States would stop shunning the Castros and would instead extend
the hand of friendship.
The meetings earned Rodiles more wrath from Castro's regime. Back in
Havana on Sunday, he attempted to march with a dissident group of about
60 after Mass, when he and the others were rounded up and sent to prison.
"We were met with the same repression and the same violence," he told me
on the phone from Havana after spending more than five hours in prison.
The difference this time is that he was fined and charged with "desorden
público." When they have done this in years past, it has meant that the
regime is about to take away his passport.
"It had everything to do with the meetings I had in Washington," he told
me. "They were very upset." The dissidents suffered other depredations.
One of them, Lourdes Esquivel, a woman in her 50s, was kept for hours in
a jail with a naked man, Rodiles told me. The thugs who arrested them
also took their money away. When the leader of the group, Berta Soler,
returned to prison on Monday to get her money back, authorities
re-arrested her. She was still behind bars Monday at noon.
"Things are going to get even worse," he told me at the end of our talk.
And on Friday, Castro took to the airwaves again, this time wearing the
uniform of general, to make demands: "During this year we have not
advanced to resolve the issues that are essential if Cuba is to have
normal relations with the United States."
Among the demands are ending U.S. broadcasts to Cuba (the only break in
the Communist news monopoly in Cuba) ending the trade embargo, and the
handover of the U.S. military base at Guantánamo Bay to the Castros.
In an interview with Yahoo News, Obama last week eerily left open the
possibility that this might happen. "There's no doubt they'd love to
have Guantánamo back," Obama said. "And I suspect that will be a long,
diplomatic discussion that will outlast my administration."
Then again, he also seriously misjudged Castro, saying, "I do see in him
a big streak of pragmatism. In that sense, I don't think he is an
Tell that to Rodiles, Soler, and Esquivel.
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