President Obama speaks of the Castro brothers as if they were long-time friends, but there was no pomp and circumstance and Obama wasn’t greeted by either Castro brother like Raul did when Pope Francis visited. It leaves Obama looking like that proverbial school kid searching for acceptance anywhere he can find it.
But that isn’t the saddest of it — civil liberties, that we take for granted in the U.S, are taking a back seat to commercial interests in Cuba.
Shortly before Air Force One landed, the Policía Nacional Revolucionaria arrested 50 members of the Ladies in White movement, established more than a decade ago by wives and relatives of political prisoners, following the disruption of their march. They march each Sunday after Mass and usually get arrested and detained for hours or days.
But, some thought Cuban authorities would back off out of respect for Obama’s visit. But despite dozens of witnessing reporters, the group was quickly rounded up, loaded onto buses and into police cars and whisked away to Havana’s Combinado del Este.
Meanwhile, before his trip, the White House promised Obama would raise the issue of human rights in Cuba, even though the Castro’s insists that domestic politics are “off the table.”
“The difference here is that in the past, because of certain U.S. policies, the message that was delivered in that regard either overtly or implicitly suggested that the U.S. was seeking to pursue regime change; that the U.S. was seeking to essentially overturn the government in Cuba; or that the U.S. thought that we could dictate the political direction of Cuba,” U.S. deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes said.
The Castro regime however is very sensitive to U.S. criticism of its human rights record – as seen most recently when its diplomats criticized Washington during a UN Human Rights Council session, advising Obama to improve human rights at home, declaring, “As President Castro said, we will not renounce our ideas or independence or social justice, nor will we set aside any of our principles.”
This isn’t surprising as this is the same regime that celebrates a murderous thug by the name of Che Guevara as a national hero. But then — he’s also celebrated by University students all over the U.S. — so go figure.