Elliott Abrams

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Abrams gives his take on U.S. foreign policy, with special focus on the Middle East and democracy and human rights issues.

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The Man Who Will Not Be A Tourist in Cuba

by Elliott Abrams
February 22, 2017

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Touring Cuba is all the rage these days, with new scheduled flights, cruise ships, and largely phony “educational” visits.

But one man who will not be visiting Cuba is the Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro. He was refused a visa today.

Anyone who thinks Cuba is reforming under Raul Castro or since Fidel’s death last November ought to wake up. Almagro was trying to visit Cuba to receive an award: the first Oswaldo Paya Liberty and Life Award, which was to be given to him by Paya’s daughter Rosa Maria. Paya was a human rights activist killed five years ago in Cuba, under circumstances that clearly suggest that the regime murdered him.

According to the Miami Herald, the regime refused the Secretary General a visa because his visit to accept this award at the Paya family home constituted “an unacceptable provocation.”

It is worth recalling, once again, exactly who Oswaldo Paya was, as The Washington Post did in editorial two years after his death on July 22, 2012:

Two years ago Tuesday, a blue rental car was wrecked off a deserted road in eastern Cuba. In the back seat was Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents, who had championed the idea of a democratic referendum on the nation’s future. Mr. Payá’s voice was not the loudest against the Castro dictatorship, but it was one of the most committed and determined. On the day of the car crash, he had been trying for more than a decade to bring about a peaceful revolution, one that would empower Cubans to decide their own fate and end the half-century of misrule by Fidel and Raúl Castro.

Mr. Payá endured harassment and intimidation for his efforts. Many of his friends and allies were jailed. He received threats by phone and other warnings, some violent. But he did not give up. On the day of the crash, Mr. Payá was traveling with a young associate, Harold Cepero, across the island to meet with supporters of the Christian Liberation Movement. In the front of the rental car was a visitor from Spain, Ángel Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of that country’s ruling party, and one from Sweden.

The car spun out of control after being rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates, according to Mr. Carromero. While he and the associate from Sweden survived, Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were killed. Mr. Carromero says he was then coerced to confess and subjected to a rigged trial in order to cover up what really happened. Mr. Carromero’s videotaped “confession,” broadcast on television, was forced upon him; he was told to read from cards written by the state security officers. He was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and later released to return to Spain to serve out his term.

Since then, there has been no serious, credible investigation of the deaths.

Nor will there be, as long as the communist regime rules Cuba.

The regime knows that its decision to exclude Almagro will evoke criticism, but believes the risk is more than it can bear. People might get ideas about Paya, voting, and even freedom.

Already there is a chorus of condemnation from several former presidents of Latin American countries. Perhaps now that Fidel is dead, his myth will begin to die and the regime will increasingly be seen for the dull, deadly, bureaucratic communist dictatorship it actually is. A regime that is afraid to let Luis Almagro, a Uruguayan Leftist politician and former foreign minister, visit the Paya home is a regime afraid of the slightest symbolic gesture toward freedom, respect for human life, and justice.

I wish the tourists frolicking on Cuba’s beaches had the slightest clue about what their dollars are supporting.

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  • Posted by Jon Steelman

    Cuba Libre’, sempre y claro.

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