President Obama and Raul Castro proclaimed Obama’s trip to Cuba as a step toward normal relations a “success.” After which the Cuban dictator demanded Guantanamo be returned to Cuba and the embargo be rescinded.
CNN correspondent Jim Acosta, whose father emigrated from Cuba, asked about political prisoners and Raul Castro replied, “If there are political prisoners, give me a list, right now. What political prisoners? Give me a name or names, and if there are political prisoners, they will be free by tonight.”
What made the exchange unusual is that the reporter was not immediately tossed into jail.
Following Castro’s comments, journalists flooded social media with names of Cuban political prisoners, such as the “51” list with full names published by the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.
Marion Smith, the executive director of the foundation, told Time magazine Castro’s statements are “laughable.” He also said there are likely a “couple hundred” political prisoners, though his organization has named 51.
Reporters tweeted the fact that the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation have accused the government of currently holding 60 political prisoners.
Castro has nothing to worry about. He can say he hasn’t seen the list, avoid any future questions, or say everyone on the list is a bona fide criminal, not a political prisoner.
He’s done this before. According to the Associated Press, “Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, says the U.S. regularly raises cases of specific political prisoners and that many of the cases have been resolved. But he says Cuba insists that they don’t consider them political prisoners. He says the Cuban authorities reply that the prisoners are being held for different crimes.”
After all, it’s his country and there will be no ramifications.
So what is Obama’s goal of such politics? The hope that increased trade and tourism will lead to a change in Cuba’s politics.
Posted on the White House web site: “The U.S. efforts are aimed at promoting the independence of the Cuban people so they do not need to rely on the Cuban state. The Administration will continue to implement U.S. programs aimed at promoting positive change in Cuba, and we will encourage reforms in our high level engagement with Cuban officials.”
More Americans will enjoy cigars, white linen suits and Cuban fedoras while Castro takes 90 percent of the pay from the people who make them.
As for the hope that Cuba will change with easing of trade restrictions, what is so magical about U.S. trade and tourism that it would compel the regime to change?
For fifty years, tourists from Canada, the United Kingdom and countries all over the world (except Israel and Papua) have flown to Cuba to enjoy moderate weather, warm beaches and cold mojitos.
Still, millions live in the abject poverty afforded those whose home are constructed of cardboard, random pieces of wood and whatever metal sheets can be squirreled away for roofs and walls.
It is estimated that 15 percent of Cuba’s urban citizens live in such squalor, which amounts to 12.5 million people.
Michael Totten visited Cuba and wrote for the City Journal in 2014, “Cuba has a maximum wage—$20 a month for almost every job in the country. (Professionals such as doctors and lawyers can make a whopping $10 extra a month.) Sure, Cubans get ‘free’ health care and education, but as Cuban exile and Yale historian Carlos Eire says, “All slave owners need to keep their slaves healthy and ensure that they have the skills to perform their tasks.”
Why is it that President Obama believes U.S. trade and tourism will do what the current foreign businesses and 3 million tourists a year cannot do?
A voice in the air calls.
“This will be the moment when we begin to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this will be the moment when the rise of the oceans begins to slow and our planet begins to heal…”
© Copyright 2016 Rick Jensen, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Rick Jensen is Delaware’s award-winning conservative talk show host on WDEL, streaming live on WDEL.com from 1pm — 4pm EST.