from Pressure Points and Middle East Program

Ignoring Human Rights in Cuba

July 1, 2015

Blog Post
Blog posts represent the views of CFR fellows and staff and not those of CFR, which takes no institutional positions.

President Obama proudly announced the restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba today--after a week of additional arrests on that island.

Here’s the most recent story: "Police arrested Emilio García Moreira and Alexander Veliz García, along with 10 members of the Ladies in White and 12 other activists on the their way to speak with Cienfuegos bishop Domingo Oropesa Lorente."

Since the announcement of a new Cuba policy last Fall, administration spokesmen and the president himself have defended it as a means of producing more democracy and respect for human rights in Cuba. But in the ensuing months, hundreds of peaceful protesters have been made political prisoners. There is zero improvement in the human rights situation in Cuba--zero.

That Castro felt free to jail still more people this week shows his understanding--sadly, a correct one--that Mr. Obama is not interested in human rights in Cuba and will move forward no matter what happens there. This new policy is a legacy item and nothing, it seems, will stop it.

And what of these new relations and the establishment of an embassy in Cuba? That raises some interesting issues. Will Cubans have access to our embassy, or will they be arrested for trying to reach it? Will our diplomats be able to travel on the island, and have access to the Cuban people? Today The New York Times carried this gem regarding a question posed to Secretary of State Kerry:

Asked if the American diplomats in Cuba would have free access to talk to Cuban citizens, he said, “We’ll talk about all those details later.”

Details. What better revelation could there be that the Cuban people are details in this move, which is not about them--and which will help not them but their oppressors.