Arrest Of Dissidents In Cuba Raises Questions About Policy Of Outreach

When President Barack Obama announced two weeks ago his intention to renew diplomatic relations with Cuba and to begin loosening restrictions on travel to the island nation, some greeted his actions with skepticism.

This week, that reluctance to place any trust in the Castro regime seems to have been well-placed after a number of dissidents were placed under arrest.

The arrests of the dissidents and several independent journalists were related to a rally by a group calling for greater freedom, reports the Miami Herald.

The State Department did issue a statement condemning “the Cuban government’s continued harassment and repeated use of arbitrary detention, at times with violence, to silence critics, disrupt peaceful assembly and freedom expression, and intimidate citizens.”

However, critics said the Cuban government’s behavior simply highlighted the weakness of a shift in policy that demanded nothing from the Cubans.

“Obama brought back nothing on democratization, a staggering betrayal of Cuba’s human rights crusaders. No free speech. No free assembly. No independent political parties. No hint of free elections. Not even the kind of 1975 Helsinki Final Act that we got from the Soviets as part of detente, granting structure and review to human rights promises. These provided us with significant leverage in supporting the dissident movements in Eastern Europe that eventually brought down communist rule,” wrote conservative Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Krauthammer’s sentiments were echoed by the paper’s editorial board, which wrote that the arrests should have caused embarrassment at the State Department, but elicited only a muted reaction.

“There was no reference to consequences in the event Havana does not comply. That’s hardly a robust stance to strike with a regime that is desperate for the economic resources that would come with expanded travel by U.S. citizens and other benefits unconditionally promised by Mr. Obama,” the editors said of State’s statement of condemnation.

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