Cuban dissidents hoping to participate in a free-speech rally following President Obama’s decision to restore diplomatic relations with the communicate regime were arrested on Tuesday.
“It’s just to tell people in the street come and share with us your doubts, your happiness — whatever you think right now about what is happening in Cuba, and what is the idea of Cuba that you want?” Tania Bruguera told NPR on Monday when explaining the purpose of the event.
Bruguera was arrested before the event took place.
The New York Times put the spotlight on the really important issue at hand. “This move, unfortunately, will amplify the criticisms of those who opposed Mr. Obama’s historic shift on Cuba policy,” the editorial board wrote of the crackdown. “Heavy-handed tactics by the Castro government will give them ammunition next year, when Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, to stymie the Obama administration’s steps to ease the embargo through executive authority and dim the prospects of legislative change to pare back the web of sanctions Washington imposes on Cuba. That result would be a shame and, in the long run, self-defeating for Havana.”
Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) argued that the arrests “make a mockery” of Obama’s decision to normalize relations with the Castros.
“The fact that the regime continues to violate the human rights of Cubans like this shows that it has even less incentive to change its ways since President Obama intends to give the Castros numerous unilateral concessions in exchange for zero steps towards more political freedom,” he said Tuesday evening. ”This is the real human tragedy of the president’s new Cuba policy.”
The State Department said it “strongly condemn[ed]” the arrests but stood by the policy change.
“As part of the process of normalization of diplomatic relations, the United States will continue to press the Cuban government to uphold its international obligations and to respect the rights of Cubans to peacefully assemble and express their ideas and opinions, just like their fellow members of civil society throughout the Americas are allowed to do,” Jeff Rathke, director of the State Department’s Bureau of Public Affairs, said in the statement.