Cuban dissidents blast Obama's betrayal
By Marc A. Thiessen December 29 at 9:21 AM
President Obama is basking in global adulation for his decision to
normalize relations with Cuba. But one group is not impressed with
Obama's rapprochement with the totalitarian regime in Havana: the
dissidents on the island who are risking their lives for democracy and
Yoani Sánchez, Cuba's most influential dissident blogger, declared that
with Obama's move "Castroism has won." Guillermo Fariñas, a dissident
journalist and winner of the European Union's 2010 Sakharov Prize for
Freedom of Thought, told the Guardian newspaper that Obama's move is "a
disaster." Fariñas, who has conducted 23 hunger strikes to protest Cuban
repression, added, "We live in daily fear that we will be killed by the
fascist government. And now, the U.S. — our ally — turns its back on us
and prefers to sit with our killers."
Ángel Moya, who was recently released from an eight-year prison
sentence, told the New York Times that Obama "betrayed those of us who
are struggling against the Cuban government. There will be more
repression, only this time with the blessing of the United States." Moya
further declared that dissidents "are totally against the easing of the
embargo" because "the government will have more access to technology and
money that can be used against us."
Moya is right. U.S. tourism and investment in Cuba won't help ordinary
Cubans at all; it will help the regime repress them. Here is why: The
Castro brothers are the nation's sole employer. Virtually everyone in
Cuba works for the state. The regime's monopoly on employment is a
source of political control. Cubans are dependent on the Castros for
everything — work, housing, education, food — and can see those things
taken away for the slightest expression of counterrevolutionary sentiment.
This means that if U.S. businesses invest in Cuba, they would have to
partner with the Castro brothers. They would not be allowed to hire
Cuban workers directly or pay them in U.S. dollars. They would have to
pay the Castro regime as much as $10,000 per worker. The regime then
would give the worker a few hundred worthless Cuban pesos and pocket the
rest. So rather than helping ordinary Cubans become independent of the
state, U.S. businesses will directly subsidize the Castro police state,
while using what effectively amounts to Cuban slave labor.
That is reason enough to bar U.S. investment in Cuba. But the other
reason Cuban dissidents oppose Obama's move is that he has given up U.S.
leverage to influence a post-Castro democratic transition. As Rebecca
Roja, a dissident who said the secret police knocked out two of her
teeth during beatings, told the Guardian: "The Castros got what they
wanted from the U.S. Now they have no incentive to change."
After five decades, it is clear the Castros were never going to follow
in the footsteps of the regime in Burma (also known as Myanmar), which
negotiated a loosening of repression in exchange for a lifting of
sanctions and normalization of relations. But those who succeed the
Castros were likely to do so once the brothers were gone. Virtually
everyone on the island — both inside and outside the regime — was
waiting for the Castros to finally die so that the process of
normalizing economic and political ties could finally begin.
Now the regime doesn't have to wait or give anything in return — because
Obama has unilaterally given the Cuban regime the political recognition
it was desperately seeking. Obama has given the Castros legitimacy and
hopes to soon unleash a flood of tourists and business investment that
will only help the regime maintain its totalitarian system. The
president apparently did not even seek any liberalization from Havana in
exchange — no agreement to allow a free press, independent political
parties, free market reforms or free elections, much less to end
repression against dissent.
Fortunately, Obama was constrained from lifting the embargo entirely
because Congress codified it in 1996 as part of the Helms-Burton Act.
The complete lifting of economic sanctions on the Castros is conditioned
by law on a post-Castro regime taking meaningful steps to dismantle the
police state and move toward democracy and a free market economy.
The remaining legal restrictions on trade with Cuba are the last piece
of leverage the United States has to press for democratic change on the
island when the Castros are gone. Congress should listen to the
dissidents on the island and refuse to go along with any further
loosening of economic sanctions unless real democratic change occurs in
The United States should not give away its last bit of leverage just as
time prepares to do what the embargo could not — bring about the end of
the Castro regime.
Source: Cuban dissidents blast Obama's betrayal - The Washington Post -