According to Amnesty International, political detentions in Cuba are at the highest level in “many years” and “Cuban human rights activists are at increased risk of detention or harassment from the authorities.” In December 2015, reported The Guardian, Obama declared that he would only visit Cuba if the government made progress on civil liberties. “If we’re going backwards, then there’s not much reason for me to be here. I am not interested in just validating the status quo,” said Mr. Obama. But since President Obama’s new policy of engagement with the Castro regime was announced, repression in Cuba has increased dramatically, writes Mark A. Thiessen in The Washington Post.
Despite this increased political repression — and despite his own promise not to “validate” this repression by visiting while it persists — the president (Obama) is in Havana anyway.
Dissident Cuban journalist and winner of the European Union’s 2010 Sakharov Prize for human rights Dr. Guillermo Fariñas warns, “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.” Dr. Fariñas has conducted 23 hunger strikes to protest various elements of the Cuban regime.
Mr. Thiessan adds that Cuba, along with North Korea, “is the most repressive totalitarian regime left on the face of the earth. Obama’s visit is a betrayal of the dissidents on the island who are risking their lives for democracy and human rights.”
On the other hand, Juan Carlos Hidalago, a policy analyst on Latin America at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, notes that U.S. policy toward Cuba has been a blatant failure and utterly counterproductive. By the U.S. isolating the island, the Castro regime has been able to portray itself as a victim of U.S. aggression.
But we should not kid ourselves about an imminent change of the nature of the Castro regime. … President Obama has said that his trip’s main objective will be to “improve the lives of the Cuban people.” If so, he should follow the steps of Jimmy Carter when he visited the island in 2002: the former president met with dissidents and was allowed to address the nation uncensored in a speech on national TV where he called for democratic elections, respect for human rights and greater civil liberties.
If Obama fails to get similar concessions, his trip will only boost the standing of the Castro regime. It will be all about cementing his legacy and not about trying to improve the lives of ordinary Cubans.