Since President Barack Obama announced the normalization of relations with the Communist government of Cuba, many conservative critics of the administration have attacked him severely.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, for example, wondered “what, if anything, has been achieved…in terms of securing the return of U.S. fugitives being harbored in Cuba, settling outstanding legal claims to U.S. citizens for properties confiscated by the regime, and in obtaining the unequivocal right of our diplomats to travel freely throughout Cuba and meet with any dissidents, and most importantly, securing greater political freedoms for the Cuban people.”
Speaker of the House John Boehner agreed: “The Obama administration is handing the Castros a lifetime dream of legitimacy without getting a thing for the Cuban people being oppressed by this brutal communist dictatorship…As I’ve said before, relations with the Castro regime should not be revisited, let alone normalized, until Cubans enjoy freedom – and not one second sooner.”
Now their voices have been joined by those of pro-democracy activists in Cuba itself, at leat 90 of whom were arrested at an August 9 protest against the reopening of the U.S. Embassy in Havana. (One estimate puts the number at 118.) Several of the activists who took part in the protest were wearing masks of Obama – not because they support the American president, but, on the contrary, because they feel that Obama’s normalization of relations with Cuba has led to an intensified crackdown on domestic critics of the Castro regime.
“It’s his [Obama’s] fault, what is happening,” charged Angel Moya Acosta, a prominent activist and former political prisoner who is the husband of Berta Soler, head of the anti-Castro group Ladies in White. Thanks to Obama’s action, claimed Moya, the Castro government “has grown even bolder….That’s why we have this mask on. Because it’s his fault.”
A spokesman for Secretary of State John Kerry, who is scheduled to open the embassy in Havana tomorrow (Friday the 14th), deplored the arrests but, when asked if Kerry planned to meet with dissidents during his visit to Cuba, fumfered unimpressively: “I don’t have anything specific with his — on his schedule Friday when he goes down to Havana. We’ll — we’ll — as we get closer to Friday, we’ll be able to give you more details about — about does it.” On Wednesday, the Associated Press reported – surprise! – that Cuban dissidents would not be invited to “Secretary of State John Kerry’s historic flag-raising at the U.S. Embassy in Havana on Friday, vividly illustrating how U.S. policy is shifting focus from the island’s opposition to its single-party government.” Kerry, added the AP, “intends to meet more quietly with prominent activists later in the day.” Key word: quietly. Arrange a meeting (in hopes, presumably, of muting their anti-Obama rhetoric), but don’t do anything that might win them Western media attention or help their cause.
Mind you, we’re not calling President Obama a useful stooge. But those pro-democracy activists in Cuba were certainly calling him precisely that.