Tag Archives: Raul Castro

Obama’s Cuba Visit Aims To Knock America Down A Peg

obamaraul2

Paul Bonicelli in The Federalist

President Obama thinks the main problem with the world is the United States. That’s why he needs to cut us down to size in Cuba—and everywhere else.

For those still trying to categorize President Obama’s foreign policy, look no further than his upcoming trip to Cuba. The visit is the fruition of his Cuba initiative, a policy whose main goal was always to provide a reason for the president to go to Havana and embrace the Castro brothers. The visit epitomizes his view of the world and his role in fixing the United States’s role in the world.

No benefits from his Cuba policy accrue to U.S. security, our economy, our values, or our reputation in the world. That is what’s at the core of Obama’s foreign policy: since the United States has caused problems in the world by being too rich, powerful, and influential, Obama must tame it by giving in, pulling back, and genuflecting before U.S. enemies. With false humility, he defers to those who hate us, and thus he makes the world a better place. He’s earning that Nobel Peace Prize ex post facto.

But of course someone is benefitting from the policy, and greatly: the Castro regime.

What a Young Cuban Knows that Obama Doesn’t
Imagine you are a Cuban twenty-something living in a communist system that oppresses you politically and deprives you economically. A steady diet of propaganda has told you that everything wrong in Cuba is the United States’ fault. To be sure, enough information gets into Cuba that you know there is more to the story. Moreover, no matter what you have been told through official channels, you and your friends would escape to the United States in a heartbeat if you could.

But now the U.S. president is demonstrating that he agrees with the propaganda. Every time over the last year that he has condemned the U.S. embargo and called for normalization and an end to Cuba’s “isolation,” the regime made sure you heard it on state TV and radio.

Nevertheless, because you know the regime far better than Obama does, you don’t take his word at face value any more than you do the regime’s. You have lived the reality of communist oppression your whole life, as have your parents and grandparents. You know the Ladies in White are assaulted regularly as they process to church in support of their imprisoned loved ones.

You know that the youth of Cuba—people like you—who dare to raise their voices in street demonstrations are subject to extra-judicial kidnappings. You know that young Cubans who express their political views through their art, like the rapper Omar Sayut, are jailed for offending the regime’s sensibilities. And you know that 50 years of trade with Europeans and Canadians and anyone else in the world willing to risk doing business with Cuba have made little difference for any Cuban except privileged party members.

You suspect that with Obama’s initiative you are watching a reenergizing of the regime, a regime that holds you in contempt while the octogenarians and younger party cadres eager to take their places solidify their hold on power. You know more than Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry because you live this life, but also because you don’t embrace an absurd worldview that holds the United States responsible for the crimes and incompetence of a dictatorship you experience every day.

Inconvenient Facts about the Cuba Deal
But intentions matter most to the Obama administration. They offer a lot of rhetoric in defense of their Cuba policy. They say it is designed to overturn a failed policy based on an embargo that has not accomplished its goals. They say it is designed to boost Cuba’s economy for the sake of the average Cuban by ending the island’s isolation. They say they hope political reform will be the ultimate result of the new policy. And they say better relations will result in more cooperation on our common security interests in the hemisphere.

Some inconvenient facts contradict them. First, the U.S. embargo was codified into a law, the Libertad Act, that contains a clear path for normalizing relations and expanding commerce. That path is for the Cuban regime to allow free elections and embrace democratic governance. Second, most of the world trades with Cuba and has for years, so the U.S. embargo is not the cause of Cuban economic deprivation. Rather, communism is.

Third, the Castro dictatorship, even after all of Obama’s kowtowing, maintains its close hold on Cuba’s economy so it can keep the party and the military business barons rich and content. Obama and Kerry might be naïve about what is going on here, but the regime is surely not.

Fourth, as to Obama’s hopes of catalyzing political reform, one need only note that since the president’s initiative was rolled out, arrests of political dissidents have skyrocketed and are now at a five-year high. Raul Castro knows his mark, and is making sure any Cuban (or American official) foolish enough to believe he and Obama have reached a deal to end the communists’ reign will be sorely disappointed.

Fifth, as to Obama’s hope for a regional partnership on common security interests, the Cuban regime and Russia continue to discuss their own partnership to reopen a spying outpost at Lourdes, not to mention the nefarious Cuba-North Korea connection and Cuba’s long history of being on the wrong side of the drug war.

How Obama’s Worldview Explains His Policies
The Cuba initiative and anticipated visit might help us understand why Barack Obama’s foreign policy is truly sui generis. The United States has never before had a president like him who sees the world as he does, who believes it is his job to fix the main problem in the world: the United States’ overweening role in the world.

I’ve observed Obama apologists (and some academics who should know better) over the years try to categorize Obama’s foreign policy as something familiar and therefore less objectionable than what could be summed up as “We are the change we have been waiting for.”

But let us dispense with all that. First, Obama is not a realist. They maximize power to ward off threats, and they give no handouts without getting something for security in. If anyone thinks the president is a realist, he should admit Obama is not a very good one. Neither is Obama a liberal internationalist (what used to be called “idealism”), although he comes close. These defer to international institutions whenever they can, but Obama has played the “cowboy” just as he accused George W. Bush of it.

Witness Libya, a ham-handed intervention if ever there was one. He might want this label if forced to choose one, but he’s sinned against that orthodoxy with both Libya and his drone wars. Nor is Obama a nationalist, but is quite the opposite. Suffice to say there is very little of Old Hickory in him, what with his undefended red lines and the mullahs’ humiliation of our armed forces.

That leaves us with a lesser-known but important tradition in international relations, critical theory. I won’t bother with all the jargon this approach is laden with (its roots are in Marxism so, you know, it would be abstruse when it is not fatuous), but it sums up to this: the exploiting classes of the world have insisted that the arc of history is toward Western Civilization’s goals and methods, but this is wrong and should be thwarted by the oppressed peoples of the world. They have a right to be heard, to be respected, and to chart their own courses without the West being the model. Critical theory encourages a non-Western centric foundation for analysis, then says, “Let’s see what happens when the oppressed are free to be themselves and follow their own ideas.”

Well, good luck with that. These theorists have never been very optimistic that their urgings will be heeded. But just think: what if the leader of the free world agreed with them?

Obama, the West’s Anti-Hero
This view comes as close to explaining (and justifying) Obama’s view of the world as I can imagine. His platitudes about commerce and democracy notwithstanding (note I did not say “free markets,” because I don’t hear him talk much about them, and he’s dramatically reduced our moral and material support for democrats around the world), Obama’s actions in the world trumpet that the United States, as the leader of the Western world, has been the cause of the problems of the non-Western world, and that has to be righted by the emergence of a tamer, quieter, more conciliatory, and accommodating United States.

It so happens that this theory also would have made it convenient for a truly revolutionary president of the United States to thrust himself upon the world stage, give the first in a series of speeches denigrating his own country, and then receive the Nobel Peace Prize (presumably for that speech, since he’d done nothing else on the world stage).

His “bold” initiatives would soon follow: a reset with Russia that ends our missile defense commitment to Eastern Europe; the Iranian deal that rewards them with billions of dollars for terrorism and a path to a nuclear weapon; this Cuba initiative that lets Castro continue to single-handedly determine the future of nine million people; and, if the Wall Street Journal has it right, something has been in the works recently to give the North Koreans the bilateral talks they so desperately want without having to curb their nuclear saber-rattling.

In short, critical theory provides support for Obama’s steadfast belief in his own importance and wisdom. It is all about him. It always has been. Or at least it is more about him than anything else.

The End of American Exceptionalism
I wish to be wrong about the trip. I hope he’ll surprise us all and do something noble while he’s there being presidential and theory-testing. Even as he embraces Fidel and Raul and offers condolences for the loss of their brother, Ramon, who died this week (an agriculturalist and not much of a revolutionary), he should make a show of his and Kerry’s declarations that they care about political reform.

It is too late for him to fix this initiative by demanding reciprocity for the sake of the Cuban people as well as the United States’s reputation, but I would be the first to applaud him if he were to make a scene by trying to visit with dissidents—not regime-approved dissidents, but the Ladies in White, the Cuban Youth Movement for Democracy, and others like them—then leave the visit early when he’s refused.

But I’m not holding my breath. It is about him and his legacy with his base of support that sees him as the first president they can be proud of, precisely because he agrees that the United States is not exceptional and not the greatest force for good the world has ever known.

Paul Bonicelli serves as professor of government at Regent University. His career includes a presidential appointment (with Senate confirmation) as assistant administrator at the United States Agency for International Development; as a professional staff member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives; and as an official delegate to the United Nations General Assembly.

IBD Editorial: Castro Brothers The Only Beneficiaries In Obama Trip To Cuba

castros

Investor’s Business Daily

Cuba: Announcing another historic “first,” President Obama said he and the first lady would visit communist Cuba to help improve the lot of the Cuban people. Last time he said that, when he normalized ties, the whip came down.

No regime has been showered with goodies the way the White House has heaped them onto the Castro brothers’ 57-year military dictatorship. From cash and trade, to the prestige of a costly U.S. presidential visit, the Castros have made out like bandits. The U.S. gets nothing in return. Nada.

The visit will no doubt be full of colorful celebrity-style photo-ops, perhaps driving on the Malecon in a ’57 Chevy, or sipping mojitos amid crumbling architecture, to make it all hip yet quaint for the cameras.

The president claims it’s “to advance our progress and efforts that can improve the lives of the Cuban people.” Seems he forgot his vow to not visit the island if he couldn’t say with confidence “that we’re seeing some progress in the liberty and freedom and possibilities of ordinary Cubans,” as he told Yahoo News in 2014.

Because the sorry reality is that life has not improved for Cubans since the thaw in relations. Human rights groups warn that, if anything, repression has increased following restoration of diplomatic ties. The regime still harasses dissidents with beatings, harassment arrests (some 8,600 last year), mob attacks and job firings, according to Human Rights Watch. What’s more, Cubans are terrified that the thaw will end their one thin reed of hope: escape to the U.S. They have since flooded U.S. borders in dramatically escalated numbers, surely a sign they expect little change.

Sure, the White House pays lip service to human rights. And Obama’s advance men have told the press he will even speak to dissidents, although they have declined to answer press questions about how these “dissidents” will be chosen. The more likely scenario is the one that came with Pope Francis’ trip to the island recently: Dissident roundups and beatings to keep the locals from getting any ideas.

It all adds up to the same sorry picture since Obama announced the normalization of ties. Now, with a Potemkin tour in the works, the only beneficiary will be the geriatric Castro regime, which will gain more legitimacy with the presidential visit, not to mention money.

Add it to the long list of Obama’s concessions to Cuba.

In 2009, President Obama loosened restrictions on remittances to the island, rapidly raising the regime’s cash flow, much of which was siphoned off through taxes by the regime. Remittances have doubled since then, to $4 billion.

Then, with no strings attached, President Obama normalized diplomatic relations with Cuba (ranked No. 177 out of 178 nations in the Heritage Foundation’s 2016 Index of Economic Freedom) and opened an embassy in Havana, pointedly banning dissidents from attending, and then falsely claiming there was a lack of seat space.

After that, Obama took Cuba off the list of state sponsors of terror — even while, at the same time, emails subpoenaed from then-Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton showed that she knew Cuba had permitted the opening of an “operational” Hezbollah base on the island, a clear example of state-sponsored terror.

Meanwhile, egregious arms violations — such as the transport of Cuban missiles through the Panama Canal on their way to North Korea and another suspicious shipment to Colombia and likely its FARC guerrillas went unsanctioned. There was also the suspicious shipment of a U.S. Hellfire missile to Havana. Cuba returned it only this week, two years after it received the supposedly misdirected package.

Frankly, we doubt any change will come to Cuba with this trip. It’s just another legacy-builder for selfish aims. The Castros will gain, but the cause of freedom will be set back.

Cuba’s Dissident Crackdown Peaks Ahead of Obama’s Visit

dissidentsprotests1

Bloomberg

Even some supporters of President Barack Obama’s moves to strengthen relations with Cuba are questioning the timing of his planned visit to the Communist island next month, after arrests of dissidents by Raul Castro’s government reached a five-year high.
Obama vowed Thursday that he’ll promote human rights during his historic visit, the first by a sitting American president since 1928. But more than a year of warming relations between the nations, separated by just 90 miles, have so far failed to slow the Cuban government’s crackdown on political dissidents.
The Madrid-based Cuban Observatory on Human Rights said 1,474 people, including 512 women, were “arbitrarily” detained in January. The arrests have been climbing since the December 2014 announcement that the two governments would improve ties.
“A presidential visit should occasion a broader progress on the human-rights agenda. And I haven’t seen any changes on that front,” said Christopher Sabatini, an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs who has supported the rapprochement.
Sabatini said Cuba can take a number of steps to show progress ahead of Obama’s March 21-22 visit, including freeing its remaining political prisoners, allowing greater freedom of expression, providing citizens with more access to the Internet or joining the Organization of American States, which would place it under the scrutiny of the regional body’s human rights commission.
‘Relatively Easy’
“Some of these are relatively easy to do,” he said. “It’s not like we’re asking them to hold free and fair elections tomorrow.”
Ric Herrero, who heads the #CubaNow advocacy group that seeks to end the five-decade U.S. trade embargo against the island, said “it would have been ideal” for Obama to make the visit later but voiced confidence in his ability to advocate for human rights on the trip. Under the 84-year-old Castro, Cuba’s human-rights record is rated as the worst in the Americas by Freedom House.
Press officials at Cuba’s Ministry of Foreign Relations didn’t immediately respond to questions about the country’s human rights record when contacted by Bloomberg News.
“We still have differences with the Cuban government that I will raise directly,” Obama said Thursday on his Twitter account. “America will always stand for human rights around the world.”
At a news conference after the announcement, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said, “We see everything that we’re doing as being in the net positive for the lives and human rights of the Cuban people.” He said long-term detentions have declined.
Kerry Visit
The White House said Obama will meet with civil society groups while in Havana, without naming which ones. During a visit to open the U.S. embassy in Havana last year, Secretary of State John Kerry was criticized by human-rights groups for not inviting dissidents to attend the ceremony alongside Cuban officials. He met with them separately later in the day.
“Despite the increase in the dictatorship’s repression, UNPACU believes Obama’s visit will be positive,” Luis Lazaro Guanche, a leader of one of the largest dissident groups, the Patriotic Union of Cuba, said on his Twitter account. The group said separately that the government has raided 20 of its members’ homes in the past three months, the most recent coming on Thursday.
Obama’s visit, the first by a sitting president since Calvin Coolidge arrived for a Latin American summit, follows administration moves aimed at making it easier for tourists to visit and U.S. companies to do business on the island. The president doesn’t have the authority to completely end the trade embargo, put in place after Raul’s brother Fidel took power and confiscated U.S. property in a 1959 revolution. Only Congress can do that.
Airbnb Business
Some travel companies have taken advantage of the nascent opening, including Airbnb Inc., which said Cuba is its fastest-growing market with more than 3,000 rooms available less than a year after it started doing business there.
Yet with companies including American Airlines Group Inc. and Carnival Corp.’s cruise line saying they are eager to do business in Cuba, the island’s government has been slow to change its own restrictions on U.S. companies.
The Cubans “are aware of it, and they are trying to address it,” said Pedro Freyre, the Miami-based chair of Akerman LLP’s international practice who has led business and legal delegations to Cuba. “Part of the problem is that they are overwhelmed. There is a small group of trained professionals and they are vetting these and their desks are just stacked to the ceiling with applications.”
Cuban officials have maintained that the U.S. must fully lift the embargo and return the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base before relations can be fully normalized.
Josefina Vidal, the head of Cuban affairs toward the U.S., said on Thursday that discussions during Obama’s visit should be based on principles of international laws.
“Cuba is open to talks with the U.S. government on any issue, including human rights, which, of course, we have different views on, as there are different ideas and views on other issues such as democracy, political models and international relations,” she said at a news conference in Havana.

Our Man – in Havana?

kirilpope

The Catholic Thing

The meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis on Friday in Havana was a pivotal moment in relations between Western and Eastern Christianity. It’s also the culmination of decades-long efforts to get Europe to “breathe with both lungs,” as St. John Paul II said. And in several respects, it owes a great deal to particular qualities of Pope Francis, for both good and ill.

Francis’s public persona gets much praise, and criticism (on this page, as elsewhere) from people who think he’s confusing and is putting crucial Catholic doctrines in jeopardy. Both charges are correct – sometimes – but there’s more to the story. He has a gift for bringing people together – yes, not always with the necessary clarity or caution. But in this instance, he mostly did very well. With one serious misstep, of which more below.

The meeting probably would have been harder to arrange if the pope were a Western European. JPII, a Pole, knew the Slavic world well. Benedict XVI profoundly understood the theological differences between East and West. Both made overtures towards the Orthodox. But a Latin American pope made things less starkly East/West.

It’s worth reading the Joint Declaration that was signed in Cuba. It starts by strongly regretting millennium-old divisions within the Church, which Christ Himself prayed would be one, as He and the Father are one. And adopts a fraternal tone – something even factions within Catholicism and Orthodoxy don’t always use towards one another – seeking closer relations and common action.

That’s a genuine religious advance, but it’s also a response to the public challenges all Christians face today: “Human civilization has entered into a period of epochal change. Our Christian conscience and our pastoral responsibility compel us not to remain passive in the face of challenges requiring a shared response.”

First, in urgency (and the text) is persecution, martyrdom, and wholesale genocide of Christians, in the Middle East, Africa, etc. Many believe that was the primary motivation for the meeting.

Continue reading Our Man – in Havana?

Pope Francis thanks a mass murderer for his hospitality

Pope Francis sent a telegram to Cuban dictator Raúl Castro yesterday, thanking him for his ‘hospitality’ during his stopover in Cuba to meet with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow.

Francis, who calls himself a “missionary of mercy and peace” referred to the Cuban dictator as ‘Mr. President’. I wonder who elected him since the criminal Castro brothers  have never allowed a free election in Cuba in 57 years.

Maybe Francis and Obama think that they can give any title they want to anyone who they like, no matter how many people that individual has murdered.

Here is Raúl Castro preparing to murder a poor campesino in the Sierra Maestra:

RaulGettingReady

And here is a photo of a mass murder of dozens of innocent Cubans, ordered by that same criminal that Francis calls ‘president’:

raul5

And here is the text of the telegram from Francis to the Cuban tyrant, according to the Vatican:

12 February 2016

MR PRESIDENT: ON MY WAY TO MEXICO FOR MY PASTORAL JOURNEY AS A MISSIONARY OF MERCY AND PEACE, I THANK YOU FOR YOUR GENEROUS HOSPITALITY DURING MY BRIEF STOPOVER IN CUBA, WHICH HAS GIVEN ME THE OPPORTUNITY TO  RECALL THE AFFECTIONATE AND WARM WELCOME THE CUBAN PEOPLE EXTENDED TO ME LAST SEPTEMBER.  ABOVE ALL, I WOULD LIKE TO THANK YOU, MR PRESIDENT, AND YOUR GOVERNMENT FOR THE WILLINGNESS TO MAKE POSSIBLE MY MEETING WITH HIS HOLINESS PATRIARCH KIRILL OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA.  IT HAS BEEN AN IMPORTANT MEETING, FROM WHICH I HOPE MUCH GOOD WILL COME.  WE CANNOT CEASE TO STRIVE ALONG THE PATH OF DIALOGUE, ENCOUNTER AND UNDERSTANDING, IF WE WISH TO ACHIEVE PEACE, RECONCILIATION, AND THE COEXISTENCE OF ALL PEOPLE OF GOODWILL.   I ASSURE YOU, AND THE BELOVED CUBAN NATION WHICH I CARRY IN MY HEART, OF MY PRAYERS, AND PLEASE ALSO PRAY FOR ME.  FRATERNALLY, FRANCIS.

 

French TV makes fun of Raúl Castro and his inseparable grandson

Raúl Castro’s grandson, known in Cuba as “El Cangrejo” (The Crab) because he has six fingers, is the dictator’s inseparable bodyguard.

During his trip to Paris this week, some of the guards and even President Hollande tried to stop El Cangrejo from following the dictator wherever he went. But  they failed.

At the end of the video a French journalist asks Castro in Spanish: “¿Cuándo los cubanos podrán votar libremente?” (When will Cubans be able to vote freely). As expected, the dictator ignored the question.

 

Obama’s Failure in Cuba

obama

The Washington Post

En español Martí Noticias

Can an authoritarian regime convert to democracy by itself? The historical record isn’t encouraging. In the absence of a popular uprising, it is rare for tyrants to voluntarily retire. The military junta of Burma has promised to relinquish some power to an elected government, but it has not yet delivered. China’s party-state shows no inclination to try. Russia’s strongman is reversing what incipient democracy existed.

This goes to the core of why President Obama’s opening to Cuba seems to be failing to live up to its declared goals. When the end to a half-century of hostility was announced in

December 2014, the proclaimed U.S. purpose was to “unleash the potential of 11 million Cubans,” to “engage and empower the Cuban people,” and to “empower the nascent Cuban private sector,” among other things.

The administration continued to offer this rationale for its latest moves. New regulations that took effect Jan. 27 from the Commerce and Treasury departments further lifted restrictions on financing of exports to Cuba and relaxed limits on shipping products to the island. Most importantly, the rules will allow banks to finance exports to Cuba on credit, with the exception of agricultural commodities covered by the still-existing trade embargo, rather than requiring cash as before, or burdensome routing through third countries.

Yet there is scant evidence so far of a sea change in Cuba — perhaps because Mr. Obama continues to offer the Castro regime unilateral concessions requiring nothing in return. Since the United States has placed no human rights conditions on the opening, the Castro regime continues to systematically engage in arbitrary detention of dissidents and others who speak up for democracy. In fact, detentions have spiked in recent months. The state continues to monopolize radio, television and newspapers.

The administration has defined one of its goals as opening Cuba to the Internet, but the nation still suffers from some of the lowest connectivity rates in the world. The regime established a few dozen Wifi spots but charges people $2 an hour to use them; the average salary is $20 a month. The state retains a chokehold on the economy, including tourism; the benefits of a 50 percent increase in U.S. visitors are being garnered by Raúl Castro’s son-in-law, the industry’s boss. .Meanwhile, Cuba’s purchases of U.S. goods have fallen by a double-digit percentage.

The hoped-for explosion in individual enterprise has not materialized either. On the contrary: The number of licensed self-employed workers has been dropping. If there are commercial deals as a result of the latest U.S. measures, it is Cuban state organizations that will benefit; only they are allowed to engage in foreign trade.

What’s most evident over the past year is that the Castro brothers are effectively preventing real change and reform even as they reap the rewards of Mr. Obama’s opening. The president’s only response has been more unilateral concessions, along with talk of a visit to the island before he leaves office. Autocrats everywhere must be watching with envy the Castros’ good fortune.

Cuban artists still condemned to silence

artists

XIndex

Dissident artists are no better off post-Fidel, and renewed relations with the US haven’t helped as many hoped or claimed they would

“[T]he fault of many of our intellectuals and artists is to be found in their ‘original sin’: they are not authentically revolutionary.”
— Che Guevara, Man and Socialism in Cuba, 1965

Last year was a good one for Cuban artists. With renewed diplomatic relations with the US, a boom in Latin American art and Cuba’s exceptional artistic talent — fostered through institutions such as the Instituto Superior de Arte in Havana — works by prominent Cuban artists fetched top dollar at international auctions, and the Cuban film industry was firmly in the international spotlight.

While the end of the embargo brought with it hope for political liberalisation on the island, as with previous periods of promise in Cuban history cases of repression and censorship of dissident artists were rife in 2015.

So let’s begin again: Last year was a good one for Cuban artists who adhere to the country’s long-established revolutionary narrative and don’t embarrass the regime.

The fear of censorship for art that is critical of the government has been fostered through decades of laws and repression that limit freedom of expression. This can mean stigmatisation, the loss of employment and even imprisonment. Charges such as “social dangerousness” and insulting national symbols are so vague they make convictions very easy.
Continue reading Cuban artists still condemned to silence

Proof That Obama Was Wrong About Cuba

obamaraul1

 “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.”

By Mike Gonzalez The Daily Signal

These stirring words came in President Barack Obama’s first inaugural address. It’s taken seven years to make clear they were utterly meaningless.

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 the open.

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.

Yes, 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.
Cuban security personnel detain a member of the Ladies in White group after their weekly anti-government protest march, in Havana September 13, 2015. (Photo: Enrique De La Osa/Reuters/Newscom)

Cuban security personnel detain a member of the Ladies in White group after their weekly anti-government protest march, in Havana September 13, 2015. (Photo: Enrique De La Osa/Reuters/Newscom)

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.

Things are going to get even worse.

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 ideologue.”

Tell that to Rodiles, Soler, and Esquivel.