Much has been made of the shift from decades long imprisonment to shorter term detentions in the press and by U.S. officials but little has been said with regards to the simultaneous escalation in knife attacks, breaking bones, machete attacks and extrajudicial killings of high profile human rights activists since 2010. On April 6, 2015 made the case "why the Obama policy will worsen human rights in Cuba and in the Americas" highlighting new patterns of repression that have emerged in the island during the Obama administration.
The suspicious deaths of human rights defenders such as Orlando Zapata Tamayo (2010), Juan Wilfredo Soto Garcia (2011), Laura Inés Pollán Toledo (2011), Wilman Villar Mendoza (2012), Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas (2012), and Harold Cepero Escalante (2012) is a terrifying alternative to the long prison sentences that the Castro regime would use to take opposition leaders out of circulation, as was the case in 2003, during the Bush administration.
On May 14, 2015 Sirley Ávila León lost her left hand, had her right arm broken by a second machete blow, and her knees slashed by several more machete blows by a married couple in an attack orchestrated by Cuban state security. The husband wielding the machete and the wife throwing the severed hand into a pigsty. Cuban doctors told her that because of the contamination in the pigsty that the hand could not be reattached. She was left completely incapacitated, not even able to bend her knees.
|Human rights defender machete attacked on May 24, 2015|
In an interview on March 21, 2016 with the Spanish Daily ABC the human rights activist declared: "After they began relations with Obama, the totalitarian regime tightened up against those who truly fight for the rule of law in Cuba." ... "All this" - in allusion to the trip of the US president to the island- "is a fallacy." For her, "this friendship of Obama [with Raul] will not bring anything good to the Cuban people."
|President Barack Obama and Dictator Raul Castro at press conference|
However the silence by President Obama, the U.S. press corps on the escalating violence and murder of opposition activists speaks volumes on moral failings of the Cuba policy of the United States that is assisting in a dynastic succession of the Castro regime by meeting with Alejandro Castro in the official sit down with Raul Castro while ignoring the terrible price being paid by Cubans who want to be free.
There is still one day left in this official visit and an important meeting planned with Cuban civil society, but the actions of the past seven years and the images of the past two days do not give much cause for President Obama to have a "Reagan moment" in Cuba. The image of President Obama photographed with the Ministry of the Interior in the background with Che Guevara prominently featured and used by Cuban official media as endorsement of the violent revolutionary martyr sends an unfortunate message around the world. We need more images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi not a mass murdering and hate filled communist icon.
|Did Castro manipulate Obama into this photo-op or did White House want it?|
|Will President Obama pay his respects to a man of peace?|