Tag Archives: Antonio Rodiles

Cuban dissident leader to Trump: ‘Treat Cuba like a dictatorship’

Frustrated by what they see as “indolence” from the previous administration, some Cuban government opponents are urging President Donald Trump to backtrack current Cuba policy and speak out about increased government repression on the island.

Antonio G. Rodiles and his partner Ailer González — both members of the Forum for Rights and Freedoms — are calling on the new administration to reset U.S.-Cuba relations and “recognize that they are dealing with a dictatorship.”

“The main thing would be for those of us who are legitimate actors on the Cuban scene — inside and outside the island — to be part of the policy design and part of that political process toward the island” unlike what former President Barack Obama did, Rodiles said during a recent meeting with el Nuevo Herald.

The couple also denounced an increase in repression since Obama announced his policy of engagement and the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba in December 2014. The situation, they said, has become worse since the death of former leader Cuban Fidel Castro in November with a “millimetric monitoring” of opponents’ actions and harassment of their families.

“It is important for the new administration to start taking action on the issue and make some statement, because silence is being very well used by the regime to try to crush the opposition,” Rodiles said.

The Cuban government opponent criticized the “indolence” of the Obama administration toward the human rights situation on the island.

“We have direct experience, including talking to President Obama, and the direct experience was that there was a lot of indolence in what happened with Cuba … There was a moment when we understood that the administration was not an ally [in the struggle for] for democratic changes in Cuba, that they had a vision that Cuba was going to change in the long term and that we would have to accept neo-Castroism,” he said.

Although he was careful not to mention what measures taken by the previous administration should be eliminated — such as sending remittances or authorizing U.S. airline travel to the island, which are popular in Cuba and within a large portion of the Cuban American community — Rodiles said he supports returning to the previous longtime policy of applying economic pressure against the Raúl Castro government, a practice Obama has referred to as a “failed policy.”

“If the regime is taking advantage of some of these measures, I’d cut that economic income,” Rodiles said. “Everything that is giving benefits to the regime and not to the people must be reversed.”

The frustration expressed by the activist couple has become increasingly evident. A video published by the Forum for Rights and Liberties and in which González exclaims, “Obama, you are finally leaving!” unleashed a whirlwind of controversy within social media networks.

According to Rodiles, Obama asked dissidents and activists during a meeting in Havana on March 22, 2016, to have patience with his policy of rapprochement.

“I told him that you can’t be patient when they are kicking citizens and women with impunity,” Rodiles said. The couple was among several activists arrested during a widely reported act of repudiation against dissidents on the same Sunday that Obama arrived in Havana for an historic visit.

Rodiles and González dismissed criticism by those who question their support for President Trump and claim their agenda is dictated by groups within the Cuban exile community. They said their interest is in readdressing Cuba issues not taking a position on U.S. domestic issues.

“Those same people who say that we are being radical and confrontational, are extremely unsupportive. They do not report any violation of human rights. These are hypocritical positions,” González said.

As for other strategies being carried out by other opposition groups on the island in an effort to incite change, the couple acknowledged that there are many different ideologies and approaches, which they said was a healthy element in the struggle for democracy.

“The most important thing,” Rodiles said, “is that the regime has to understand that 60 years is more than enough, and that it’s over.”

‘People are complaining openly in Cuba and this has never happened before’

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The Guardian

Leading dissident Antonio Rodiles has been arrested more than 50 times this year, but he says he has moments of optimism about political change in Cuba

Two days before he was due to meet the president of the US, Antonio Rodiles was arrested by the Cuban police.

But this was nothing new – as a democracy activist in Cuba you get to know the police pretty well. Rodiles estimates that he has been arrested more than 50 times since the beginning of the year.

I met Rodiles in his house in Havana, shortly after the US president’s historic visit. He was eventually released and met with Obama, who spent two hours with prominent Cuban dissidents and anti-Castro civil society leaders. “It was a good meeting, but it doesn’t mean we will have a good result,” Rodiles says. And yet, despite plenty of negative experiences, the activist admits that these days, he has moments of optimism.

Rodiles, a native Cuban, has been openly critical of the Castro government since his return from the US in 2010. A qualified physicist, he spent 12 years away from Cuba until he turned to political activism, concerned and frustrated by the lack of civic liberties in his country.

His activism is mainly about reclaiming public space and intellectual freedom. Last year he launched #TodosMarchamos (we all march), an initiative to exercise the right to freedom of expression and take back the streets from the government – there’s a saying in Cuba “esta calle es de Fidel” (this street belongs to Fidel).

On a smaller scale, every Thursday Rodiles hosts meetings at his house – an organisation called Estado de SATS – an open space to present art exhibitions, independent films and debates. They are “a kind of therapy session for activists,” he says.

“There’s no space like this in Cuba. It’s so important to have these kinds of events. People can come here and speak openly without limits. They can say they hate Fidel or even, well, we haven’t had anyone say they like the Castros, but they could do that here,” he jokes.

And these meetings are poignant. Ex-political prisoners are given a microphone to share their thoughts on the future of Cuba and openly discuss their experiences of their restricted life. It seems to be a lifeline for those who think differently to the Cuban communist ideology; and it is perhaps now more important than ever to continue these discussions. The invitation to meet with Obama was a recognition of their work.

Continue reading ‘People are complaining openly in Cuba and this has never happened before’

Mary Anastasia O’Grady: Cuba’s Democrats Need U.S. Support

Mary Anastasia O’Grady, The Wall Street Journal

Obama has helped the dictatorship but ignored the dissidents.

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Cuban dissident leader Antonio Rodiles has been harassed, beaten, imprisoned and may have been injected with a foreign substance—more on that in a minute—by Castro goons. Yet he is calm and unwavering: “They are not going to stop us,” Mr. Rodiles recently told me over lunch here with his wife,  Ailer González.

Soviet-style Cuban intelligence is trained to crush the spirit of the nonconformist. Yet the cerebral Mr. Rodiles was cool and analytical as he described the challenges faced by the opposition since President Obama, with support from  Pope Francis, announced a U.S. rapprochement with Castro’s military dictatorship in December 2014.

One of the “worst aspects of the new agenda,” Mr. Rodiles told me matter-of-factly, “is that it sends a signal that the regime is the legitimate political actor” for the country’s future. Foreigners “read that it is better to have a good relationship with the regime—and not with the opposition—because those are the people that are going to have the power—political and economic.”

The Cuban opposition is treated as superfluous in this new reality. U.S. politicians visiting the island used to meet with dissidents. Now, Mr. Rodiles says, “contact is almost zero.” When the U.S. reopened its embassy in Havana last year it refused to invite important dissidents like Mr. Rodiles or even  Berta Soler, the leader of the Ladies in White, to the ceremony.

Mr. Rodiles said the mission of pro-democratic Cubans is critical and urgent: “We need to change the message,” making it clear that the regime is “not the future of Cuba.” And this, he says, is the defining moment.

If the Castros hope to transfer power to the next generation—be it to Raúl’s son Alejandro or a Cuban  Tom Hagen—as Russia’s KGB forced  Boris Yeltsin to yield to KGB veteran  Vladimir Putin, they need to do it soon.

Yet at the same time, Mr. Rodiles says, “if they give the country to their families in the condition it is in right now, it will be like handing them a time bomb” about to go off. That’s why, he tells me, this is a unique opportunity for freedom to emerge: The odds of successfully passing the baton in the current economic meltdown are low.

Or at least they would be if Mr. Obama were not offering the regime legitimacy and U.S. greenbacks while refusing to officially recognize the opposition.

Mr. Rodiles has a master’s degree in physics from Mexico’s Autonomous National University and a master’s degree in mathematics from Florida State University. The 43-year-old returned to Cuba in 2010 and is a founder of Estado de SATS, a project to “create a space for open debate and pluralism of thought.”

The police state views this as dangerous and has come down hard on the couple. Amnesty International was among those that called for his release when he was jailed in 2012 for 19 days. In July a state-security agent punched him in the face while his hands were cuffed behind his back.

On Jan. 10 he and Ms. González, along with other government critics, were again attacked by a rent-a-mob on the streets of Havana. This time they were left with what looks like identical needle marks on their skin.

Those wounds are worrisome. More than once the former leader of the Ladies in White,  Laura Pollán, was left with open wounds after being clawed and scratched by plainclothes government enforcers. After one such incident in 2011 she mysteriously fell ill and died in the hospital. The government immediately cremated her body and the dissident community has long suspected that she was intentionally infected with a fatal virus by the regime.

Under normal circumstances, the Castro family would have reason to fear the future. Totalitarian regimes collapse, Mr. Rodiles reminds me, “when the people inside the system, not just the elite, but the people who are in the middle, the ones who sustain the system, start to go and look for another possibility.” They do this because they recognize the future is elsewhere so they “move or at least they no longer cooperate.”

Today young Cubans are looking for that alternative. The regime’s promise to Mr. Obama of economic opportunity and growth through small-business startups is a farce because the Castro family operates like a mafia, “and always has,” says Mr. Rodiles. To do well in the current environment the young have to join the system, or else they flee.

Those who join are not ideological but only seek power. “If we can show that we are the ones with the power to transform the country, then these people for sure are going to prefer to be with us.”

Failure is unthinkable for Mr. Rodiles. “We cannot allow the transfer of power because if they transfer the power, we can have these people for the next 20 or 30 years.”

A warning to America from a Cuban dissident

obamaraul

Washington Post Editorial

When President Obama began the opening to Cuba a year ago, one of the arguments the White House advanced was that a full-fledged embassy in Havana would give U.S. diplomats more freedom to roam the island than was the case with the constricted “interests section” that existed earlier. The administration emphasized that expanded “people-to-people” contacts, including with Cuban dissidents and human rights activists, would be an important outcome of the thaw.

Antonio G. Rodiles, one of many Cubans who have suffered harassment, arrest and beatings for speaking out, heard those promises, but, in an interview at The Post this week, he expressed deep disappointment that it has not happened. Rather than more contact, he said, he has seen U.S. diplomats less than before and suggested the reason: The United States has made Raúl Castro and the Cuban regime its chief interlocutor. Concern about human rights, long a mainstay of U.S. policy toward Cuba, has been “sidelined,” he lamented. Cuba’s fractious opposition feels left out in the cold.

In the same week that Mr. Rodiles described this situation, Mr. Obama suggested in an interview with Yahoo News that he would go to Cuba before he leaves office only if he could “talk to everybody.” He added, “I’ve made very clear in my conversations directly with President Castro that we would continue to reach out to those who want to broaden the scope for, you know, free expression inside of Cuba.” That’s a nice gesture, but it does not change the reality for most Cubans who live under Castro’s dictatorship.

Mr. Obama has counseled that change in Cuba will take time, and “normalization will be a long journey.” Certainly, both Raúl and Fidel Castro, who have ruled the island for a half-century, are in their twilight years. But Mr. Rodiles made the sobering argument that the Castro brothers are girding themselves against embarking upon Mr. Obama’s journey. They are preparing to perpetuate the regime by passing the baton of power to Raúl Castro’s son and son-in-law; they show no sign that their henchmen will stop using violence and coercion to repress free speech; and they keep a tight grip on the economy and society as a whole.

As it has before, Mr. Rodiles pointed out, the regime is also trying to play games with emigration, allowing a surge in order to put pressure on the United States. Mr. Rodiles said that the White House fails to understand the complexity of a power structure determined to exploit the gains from Mr. Obama’s opening for its own survival rather than acquiesce to changes that would loosen its grip.

Barriers are falling — the latest being a bilateral agreement announced Thursday for scheduled air service between the United States and Cuba — but these incremental steps should not be mistaken for the arrival of freedom in Cuba. The Castros will not give an inch if they can avoid it. The real challenge for Mr. Obama is to cause change, and not just enrich and empower those who would stymie it.

Cuban Dissidents Reject Kerry’s Insulting Second-Fiddle Offer

arodiles060714

Via Capitol Hill Cubans

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told media outlets yesterday that the reason why Cuban dissidents aren’t invited to the flag-raising ceremony at the new U.S. Embassy in Havana is because there isn’t enough space.
What a pathetic — and untrue — excuse.
The courtyard of the U.S. Embassy in Havana is easily four to five times the size of the Cuban Embassy’s in Washington, D.C.
Yet, the latter invited over 500 guests to its flag-raising ceremony, including their lobbyists, apologists and a Code Pink delegation to party outside.
The real reason why Kerry is not inviting Cuban dissidents to the flag-raising event is because the Castro regime doesn’t want them there — and the Obama Administration has shamefully acquiesced.
In other words, the Obama Administration is (once again) lowering our standards to raise the flag.
Instead, Kerry has offered to meet Cuban dissidents “in a closet” of the Ambassador’s residence afterwards.
This morning, Berta Soler of The Ladies in White and Antonio Rodiles of Estado de Sats, who have been leading the courageous Sunday demonstrations against the Castro regime (in the face of rising violence and repression), rejected Kerry’s insulting second-fiddle offer.
The image of the flag-raising ceremony at the Embassy will be of the U.S. standing side-by-side with the oppressors of the Cuban people.
It will forever be captioned — “No dissent is allowed.”

Marco Rubio: Obama’s Faustian Bargain With Cuba

marcorubio1

When President Obama announced the formal re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba last week, he criticized the supposed failures of United States policy toward Cuba, which, Mr. Obama said, “hasn’t worked for 50 years.”
The reality of course is that American policy is no more to blame for Cuba’s economic and political problems than it was for the Soviet Union’s bread lines or for the fact that tens of millions of Chinese still live in poverty. Continue reading Marco Rubio: Obama’s Faustian Bargain With Cuba

They make an unconditional deal with a criminal and now say they are “very concerned” with his brutality

Roberta1

Roberta Jacobson, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs and chief negotiator for the United States in the recent talks to restore diplomatic ties with Cuba, is now posting messages on Twitter about her “concern” with the brutal by attack by Castro’s police against Cuban dissident Antonio Capriles and the arrest of dozens more.

It is incredible, that after unconditionally agreeing to restore diplomatic relations with a criminal enterprise such as Castro’s Cuba, she can now say that she is “very concerned” because the Castro brothers are doing what they have been doing for 57 years.
If it wasn’t so tragic, Roberta’s ‘concerns’ would be considered a joke.

Five days after Obama announced full diplomatic relations with Cuba, Raúl Castro responds with more beatings and detentions

arodiles060714Cuban dissident Antonio Rodiles suffered a brutal beating at the hands of Raúl Castro’s thugs, on Sunday July 5, just five days after President Barack Obama announced he agreed to reestablish relations with the Cuban dictatorship without any conditions.

The criminal dictator, that Barack Obama calls “president”, sent his armed thugs to beat dissidents on Sunday, like he has been doing every Sunday for the last 12 weeks.

Reports from Cuba indicate that over 60 dissidents, included several members of the Ladies in White, were arrested when they tried to attend Mass.

Rodiles, a Cuban political activist who has achieved international visibility for his work as the coordinator of Estado de SATS, a forum which was created in July 2010 to encourage debate on social, cultural and political issues in Cuba, required surgery after suffering a broken nose at the hands of Castro’s police. Continue reading Five days after Obama announced full diplomatic relations with Cuba, Raúl Castro responds with more beatings and detentions