19 Jun Talk of lifting Cuba embargo brings memories of brutality
``Those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it.``
A good friend includes the quote from George Santayana at the end of all his e-mails.
It is worthwhile remembering it as those seeking rapprochement with Cuba push ahead with their campaign to have President Barack Obama ease restrictions on travel and commerce with Cuba, inasmuch as they don’t have the support in Congress to lift the embargo.
The latest to join the fray is former first lady, former Secretary of State and likely presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who in her recently released book argues that the Cuban embargo is “holding back our broader agenda across Latin America.”
One could ask Ms. Clinton: “What Latin American agenda.” That would be unfair, for the United States hasn’t had one in decades.
What is most troubling about what Ms. Clinton and other academics, politicians, and some Cuban millionaires do not talk about is what has happened each time the subject of lifting the embargo comes up.
In May of 2014, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reported the detention of 1,120 dissidents in May alone. More than in any other month other than December of 2013 when 1,123 dissidents had been detained, beaten and harassed.
“A record 3,821 short-term arrests of Cuban dissidents were reported in the first four months of this year, continuing a surprisingly sharp increase in detentions under ruler Raúl Castro,” the island’s top human rights group reported.
Among those arrested were some of Cuba’s best-known pro-democracy activists. They include: Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, also known as “Antúnez,” his wife, Yris Perez Aguilera, Ladies in White spokesperson Berta Soler, and her husband, Angel Moya.
Antúnez, who spent 17 years in jail as a prisoner of conscience, has been frequently detained, beaten and harassed by the Cuban government. This time he was interrogated, thrown against walls, strangled twice until he passed out and injected with unknown substances. The only difference is that this time he and his wife Iris were not released after a brief detention.
This time the Cuban government is holding them for trial, accused of promoting a document signed by 830 democracy advocates in Cuba opposing recent efforts to ease U.S. sanctions towards Cuba.
They are not alone.
Members of two other organizations of dissidents — Cuba’s Patriotic Union (UNPACU) for its initials in Spanish, and the Ladies in White — were tried in Santiago de Cuba last Friday on charges of disobeying government laws and disorderly conduct. Their trial lasted more than 12 hours and they will be sentenced on July 1.
Reporters Without Borders said that Cuban communist authorities were increasing their repression against independent journalists in Cuba who try and report what the official government media refuses to publish.
Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of the organization, said in communiqué that the methods used by the Castro regime were becoming increasingly brutal. Specifically, he mentioned the case of Roberto de Jesús Guerra Pérez, the head of Hablemos Press, an independent Cuban news organization, who was beaten.
This is Cuba’s response to those who seek closer ties with the island’s communist regime. History repeats itself.
President Jimmy Carter, who negotiated the exchange of diplomats and allowed for Cuba to open an Interests Section in Washington at the same time that Cuba allowed the United States to open up an Interests Section in Havana, thought his move would lead to closer relations.
Instead, Cuba sent thousands of troops to fight in Africa and opened up the Port of Mariel for all those who wanted to leave Cuba, creating an enormous crisis for the Carter Administration.
A similar thing happened when President Bill Clinton tried improving relations with the island. Cuba’s response was to shoot down two Brothers to the Rescue small planes over international waters, killing four Cuban-Americans.
And now Cuba has Allan Gross in jail, sentenced to 15 years for taking satellite phones to the Jewish community in Cuba. The Castro regime wants to exchange Gross for three of the five Cuban spies still serving sentences for spying in the US.
So yes, Clinton is right. Let’s lift the embargo and see how Cuba reacts. History tells us that Cuba will respond brutally. That is what they always have done.