The freedom-haters, &c.

Yoani Sánchez


It has long been a painful subject, and a frequent one in this column: the support that people in free countries give to totalitarian dictatorships elsewhere. The hatred they express of people in unfree countries who are trying to gain some freedom for themselves.

Here is a report from the Associated Press. It concerns Yoani Sánchez, the Cuban dissident and blogger who has been let out of the country for a tour. (Very welcome news, by the way.) The report is from Brazil:

Small groups of protesters met Sanchez when she arrived earlier Monday at two airports in Brazil’s northeast. They called her a “mercenary” who was being financed by the CIA and tossed photocopied U.S. dollar bills her way. One protester got close enough to pull her hair.

She was supposed to attend a screening of a documentary — a documentary that features her. But the Castro supporters prevented the event from taking place.

. . . about four dozen protesters surrounded her the moment she walked through the door, shouting “Cuba yes! Yankees no!” and forcing security guards to evacuate her to a nearby room.

She said, “I was expecting it. Even before leaving Cuba I knew this could happen. It’s sad, because I’ve been waiting one year for this. I really wanted to see the film.”

For many years — decades — a question has been asked: “Can there be a decent Left?” A Left that is not anti-democratic and illiberal? Such a Left is not easy to find. In every free country, there are those who would have the country unfree — and themselves in charge. If you think this is untrue of the United States — that our “exceptionalism” runs that far — I have a bridge to sell you.

In February 2010, Lula da Silva, then the Brazilian president, visited Cuba. He was a great star in the world — the toast of Davos and so on. And, of course, he had been freely and democratically elected.

On his visit to Cuba, he schmoozed with his pals the Castros, and lent them his legitimacy. He refused to meet with dissidents. While Silva was in the country, Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the Cuban prisoner of conscience, finished his hunger strike: that is, died. Silva just poured scorn on him, defending the Castros.

And Silva himself had been a hunger striker, back when he was a prisoner of Brazil’s military dictatorship! He was treated better than his friends in Cuba have ever treated their prisoners.

Why do people in free countries support dictators and hate the people who would have their own countries free? It is a painful and vexing human phenomenon. I saw it in my hometown of Ann Arbor, and I’ve seen it, I’m sorry to say, ever since.

American politicians have been in Cuba too. They went earlier this week to try to win the freedom of Alan Gross, as I understand it. Gross is the American hostage who was seized in December 2009. That’s a long time, to be a hostage. I wrote about his case in a piece for National Review two years ago — here.

This latest delegation was composed of some of the leftmost members of our House and Senate. The usual suspects: Patrick Leahy, Jim McGovern . . . Missing were two of the Castros’ best friends in all the world: Representatives Charlie Rangel and José Serrano. I can’t explain why they were not on the trip.

There was a Republican in the delegation: Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona. His thinking on Cuba is much like the Democrats’, as far as I can tell.

This report says, “Leahy and other members of the delegation were seen entering an upscale restaurant in Old Havana along with Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez at midday Tuesday.” The gang “also dined with Parliament chief Ricardo Alarcon on Monday and toured Ernest Hemingway’s former villa.”

How sweet. Really sweet. But did they meet with dissidents? Did they ask to do so? Did they attempt to visit prisoners of conscience? Don’t you think representatives of the United States ought to do so?

You do? You are a warmonger and Neanderthal, aren’t you!

According to this report, “organizers of a Carnival festival in the Mexican port city of Veracruz say 15 Cuban musicians and dancers have gone missing after marching in the city’s annual parade.” I have been reading stories like this my entire life. How about you? Baseball players defect, ballerinas defect (except for Alicia), everyone defects. I’m always amazed that the dictatorship still lets people out, even with their minders. I’m glad they do.

Have a look at this report: “Two mortars exploded next to a soccer stadium in central Damascus Wednesday, killing one player and injuring several . . .” I’m surprised that soccer is being played in Syria right now. The urge to continue with normal life must be overpowering.

Normal life: That’s what most people want. But other people, of course, won’t let them have it.