‘Abandoned on the Battlefield’

by Jay Nordlinger

Obviously, Cuban dissidents have no say in U.S. policy toward Cuba. (That is obvious in more ways than one.) U.S. policy is strictly a matter of U.S. interest. But, given all that these men and women have suffered — beatings, torture, imprisonment — we should note their opinions, I think you will agree.

This is especially true in view of the fact that President Obama claims his new policy will help the Cuban people.

Readers of NR and NRO are well familiar with Oscar Elias Biscet. He is the Afro-Cuban physician and democracy leader who was imprisoned for twelve years, released in 2011. George W. Bush gave him the Medal of Freedom, in absentia, in 2007. That was so like Bush. I interviewed Biscet shortly after he got out of prison, here.

About Obama’s abrupt move, Biscet has said, “I feel as though I have been abandoned on the battlefield.”

Berta Soler, you also know. She is the leader of the Ladies in White (also Afro-Cuban, as so many Cuban opposition leaders are). I interviewed her in 2013, here. She became the leader of the Ladies in White after the founder of the group, Laura Pollán, died in extremely mysterious circumstances.

“Sadly, President Obama made the wrong decision,” Soler has said. “The freedom and democracy of the Cuban people will not be achieved through these benefits that he’s giving, not to the Cuban people, but to the Cuban government. The Cuban government will only take advantage to strengthen its repressive machinery . . .”

Yoani Sanchez is probably the best-known of the Cuban dissidents right now. She spoke at the Oslo Freedom Forum in October. (For my write-up, go here.)

This week, she has said, “Castroism has won.” She added, however, that “the positive result is that Alan Gross has left alive the prison that threatened to become his tomb.”

I have been talking lately about Guillermo Fariñas, the doctor, journalist, and dissident. (Afro-Cuban.) Fariñas won the Sakharov Prize from the European Parliament. Recently, his home was broken into by an agent of the state. The agent stabbed four people, leaving two of them in critical condition. They were members of the Ladies in White.

Fariñas: “Alan Gross was used as a tool by the Castro regime to coerce the United States. Obama was not considerate of Cuban citizens and of the civil society that is facing this tyrannical regime. . . . The betrayal of Cuba’s democrats has been consummated.”

I have also been talking about Oswaldo Payá — murdered, almost certainly, by the dictatorship in 2012. He, too, was a recipient of the Sakharov Prize.

His daughter, Rosa Maria, has said, “The Cuban people are being ignored in this secret conversation, in this secret agreement that we learned about today.”

Let me end with the man known simply as “Antunez.” NR/NRO readers have been hearing about him for many years. He is a fantastically brave ex-political prisoner and democracy leader (Afro-Cuban). He has endured more beatings than almost any of them. That he keeps going is almost superhuman.

Antunez said, “This is a betrayal that leaves the democratic opposition defenseless. Obama has allied himself with the oppressors and murderers of our people.”

To repeat, these people have no say in U.S. policy, which is strictly a matter for Americans. But given all that they have suffered and striven for, they have earned the right to speak their minds.

What they say does not tell me everything. Moreover, they may well be wrong in their opinions. I hope so. But I also think along these lines: Some of the people I admire most in all the world are crying in agony and fury against Obama’s move. Some of the people I admire least in all the world are celebrating. That must tell me a little something, right?

To see the statements of these dissidents, and other statements, go to the indispensable Mauricio Claver-Carone, here.

P.S. Seth Leibsohn and I discussed Obama’s move on the radio, here. Hugh Hewitt and I had a similar discussion. I can’t find it on the Net, but better Googlers than I probably can.

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