Elliott Abrams

Pressure Points

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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Huber Matos, R.I.P.

by Elliott Abrams
Photo: By Gabematos35 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Photo: By Gabematos35 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Huber Matos, a great hero of the struggle for freedom in Cuba died today at age 95.

Matos was a revolutionary comandante in the Cuban revolution, a leader of the struggle against the Batista dictatorship. He later broke with Fidel Castro when it became apparent that Castro was fighting for personal power and for a communist system, not for freedom. For this, Castro had him imprisoned for twenty years, from 1959 to 1979, and he described the maltreatment, brutality, and torture to which he was subjected in his memoir Como Llego La Noche (How The Night Came). Read more »

Push Polls and Cuba

by Elliott Abrams

You can’t always get what you want, the Rolling Stones once told us. But you can, actually, in a push poll: a poll designed to elicit a certain result and then advertised as achieving that result.

This past week the Atlantic Council released a poll it had sponsored about U.S. relations with Cuba. Here’s one key aspect of the poll: When respondents were told “Cuba continues to have a dismal human rights record. The Castro regime represses virtually all forms of political dissent through detentions, arbitrary arrests, beatings, travel restrictions, forced exile, and sentencing dissidents in closed trials,” we find that 33 percent this was a “very important” reason to keep the current U.S. policy and 17 percent said it’s “somewhat important,” for a total of 50 percent. And 43 percent the human rights abuses make it somewhat important or very important to change the policy. Read more »

Electing the New UN Human Rights Council

by Elliott Abrams

Next week, on November 12, new members of the UN Human Rights Council will be elected. Among the candidates are nations that should never be allowed on the Council, and indeed whose presence will make the Council a mockery: Cuba, Russia, Saudi Arabia, China, and Vietnam. Read more »

Cuba’s Criminal Regime and North Korea

by Elliott Abrams

After all the talk about hope and change and reform in Cuba, the old Stalinist regime of the Castros turns out to be in bed with North Korea and to be violating UN sanctions on that other Stalinist regime. Birds of a feather….

Today’s news tells us that a North Korean vessel traveling from Cuba to North Korea was stopped and searched near the Panama Canal. Lo and behold, hidden in the sugar were missile parts. As one news report put it, Read more »

Who Speaks for the People of Cuba?

by Elliott Abrams

Last week the Castro brothers announced the name of the man who, they said, will succeed Raul Castro when–or if–he retires at the end of the new five-year term as president to which he has just appointed himself.

The name is Miguel Diaz-Canel. He’s an apparatchik in the best Soviet style: thirty years in the Communist Party, starting with its youth groups. He’s not particularly well-known on or off the island, which may have recommended him to the Castros: previous heirs apparent sometimes got too big for their britches and had to be dumped. Of course, Canel may be dumped too, at any moment. He has no power base, and no apparent close ties with the Army and security services–who will be critical once the Castros are dead. The day Raul or Fidel is tired of him will be the day his “elevation” is undone. It will be interesting to see whether, in his new post as vice president, Canel is handed any real responsibilities by the Castros. This much is clear: nothing this man has ever done in his life suggests he believes in freedom, democracy, or human rights–or the Castros would never have selected him. Read more »

Another Phony Election in Cuba

by Elliott Abrams

Democracy may be spreading in large parts of the world and with it genuine, contested elections–but not in Cuba.

Cubans “voted” again yesterday for the Cuban “National Assembly,” if one uses such terms very loosely. The Washington Post quotes Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez saying “It is a different electoral system. Personally I find it is more democratic than (others) I know.” This is offensive nonsense, because Cuba remains a one-party state where zero electoral competition is allowed. “Renouncing the principle of a single party would be equal to legalizing one or more imperialist parties,” Reuters reports Raul Castro saying last year. Read more »

Alan Gross, Vilma Castro, and America’s Cuba Policy

by Elliott Abrams

Alan Gross is a former USAID contractor who has been in a Cuban jail since December 3, 2009.  The most recent reports are that he has lost 105 pounds while in prison, and may well be suffering from untreated cancer.

Vilma Rodriguez Castro is the granddaughter of Raul Castro, Fidel’s brother and the man now running the communist dictatorship. Read more »

Birds of a Feather Meet in Havana

by Elliott Abrams
Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko shakes hands with Cuban vice minister of foreign affairs Dagoberto Rodriguez at Havana's Jose Marti airport on June 24, 2012 (Enrique de la Osa/Courtesy Reuters). Belarussian president Alexander Lukashenko shakes hands with Cuban vice minister of foreign affairs Dagoberto Rodriguez at Havana's Jose Marti airport on June 24, 2012 (Enrique de la Osa/Courtesy Reuters).

It is not surprising that the worst regime in Europe and the worst regime in Latin America see much in common, so the visit to Cuba today by the president of Belarus has a certain logic to it.

In fact President Lukashenka is going on a Latin autocracy tour, following Cuba with Venezuela and then Ecuador. They can all share notes on how to suppress press freedom, silence dissidents, jail those who demonstrate against the regime, and crush civil society. Those who pretend they can see serious reforms in Cuba should be reminded by this visit of the true nature of the Castro regime. Lukashenka is their kind of guy. Read more »