|From meeting with opposition leaders (2003) to shunning them (2015)|
One year ago today the Cuban Interests Section in Washington D.C. was formally re-designated the Cuba Embassy with Secretary of State John Kerry in attendance. Later on that same day the significance of this new relationship with the Castro regime was made evident in the treatment accorded to Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo.
On July 20, 2015 at the State Department, Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo attended a press conference with Secretary of State John Kerry and Castro's foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez. Rosa Maria had proper accreditation as a member of the press. She has had articles published in news publications such as The PanAm Post and her own blog. This did not stop Rear Admiral John Kirby, who was transferred from the Pentagon and in May of 2015 became the new State Department spokesman, from taking Rosa Maria aside and warning her that she would be physically removed if she asked any questions or caused any kind of disturbance.
Cecilia Bradley of NBC6 captured a blurry image of when Rosa Maria Payá was taken aside. The young activist tweeted a photo of Rear Admiral Kirby with the following text: "John Kirby kindly told me if I caused disturbances during the conference security would remove me." In a later tweet Rosa Maria reported that "Mr. Kirby asks me not to ask questions at John Kerry's press briefing or they would use force to expel me."
The United States Department of State in the space of twelve years has gone from Secretary of State Colin Powell receiving Cuban democratic opposition leader Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas to threatening his daughter with force if she dared to ask a question at a press conference in which Secretary of State John Kerry took questions with the Cuban dictatorship's Foreign Minister. The same dictatorship that martyred her father three years earlier.
Is this what is now celebrated as progress by the Obama administration?
A day later when Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo attempted to present a letter to the Cuban embassy requesting her father's autopsy report she was not allowed to turn in the letter and a patrol car was called. Since 2012 the Payá family has been requesting Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas's autopsy report from the dictatorship and has yet to be given a copy as they are entitled by law. This is not how the embassy of a country behaves, but it is how a totalitarian dictatorship does. This is why South Florida residents protested placing a Cuban Consulate here earlier this year.
President Obama changed course on Cuba from Secretary of State Powell receiving a Cuban democratic opposition member in 2003 following a petition drive signed by more than 20,000 Cuban nationals demanding democratic reforms to the Secretary of State's spokesman threatening an accredited reporter with physical removal from the State Department because her father was martyred by the dictatorship (this administration normalized relations with) to prevent her asking a question at a press conference to the foreign minister of that regime.
Diminishing the moral stature of the United States government is the opposite of progress. Rosa Maria Payá Acevedo in a tweet summed up this new reality perfectly: "I didn't think I would receive in the State Dept the same kind of coercive warning security at the Panama airport gave me."
Neither did I.